Agenda item

Proposal to change the call-in procedure rules

To consider the attached report from Cllr Jeremy Hilton.


Cllr Hilton presented a report requesting that one of the six signatories to a call-in be given the right to speak in support of the call-in at the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee.  He believed that in the interests of democracy, the six signatories should be given an opportunity to nominate a spokesperson to present the call-in for no more than five minutes.  This would allow the spokesperson to explain the reasons why a cabinet decision had been called in.  He believed that if this was introduced it would not hinder the process and would help the members of the committee in understanding the grounds for the call-in.


He noted that the Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee always reminded members of the committee that their role was to consider the merits of the call-in and they should not act as an advocate for the call-in.  He felt that in the current climate where decisions could be subject to judicial review it was important that the council had a fair process in place which allowed members to express their view.


In response to a request from the chairman, the Assistant Director of Law and Administration advised that the way that the call-in process operated was not prescribed in legislation. She said that local provisions for call-in were set out in the council’s constitution.        


A member stated that the constitution provided for a cabinet member to address the committee and he believed that, in the interests of a balanced process, one of the signatories to the call-in should have an opportunity to present their case.  He felt that the change proposed would enrich the process and make it more democratic.  He noted that the chairman of the committee could always stop someone talking if they spoke for too long or were raising irrelevant matters.


Another member believed that the change proposed would strengthen the call-in process.  He said that it was inappropriate for a signatory to the call-in to be substituted onto the Overview and Management Committee to allow them to participate in the discussion. 


The chairman stated that the call-in notice should set out clear reasons for the call-in.  He noted that the call-in notice was included in the report presented to the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee along with a response from the relevant cabinet member.  He noted that the purpose of the call-in was to challenge the process followed in making a decision and not to look again at the merits or otherwise of a particular decision. 


Other members noted that the call-in process was all about checking that a decision had been made in a proper manner.  They were concerned that giving a signatory to the call-in an opportunity to speak would simply open up the debate again on whether a particular decision should have been made in the first place.  They said that the time to consider the merits of a particular decision was before it was taken and not afterwards.


On being put to the vote, the proposal for a signatory to a call-in to be given five minutes to speak in support of the call-in at the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee, was not supported.

Supporting documents: