Agenda and minutes

Constitution Committee
Monday, 10th June, 2019 10.30 am

Venue: Newton Room, The Guildhall Arts Centre, St Peter's Hill, Grantham. NG31 6PZ

Contact: Lucy Bonshor 

Items
No. Item

1.

Membership

    The Committee to be notified of any substitute members.

    Minutes:

    The Chairman invited those present to give a brief introduction of themselves as this was the first meeting of the Committee following the District elections in May.

     

    The Committee were notified that Councillor Bellamy was substituting for Councillor Judy Smith.  

2.

Apologies

3.

Disclosure of interests

4.

Minutes of the meeting held on 4 March 2019 pdf icon PDF 172 KB

5.

Companies Committee - Governance arrangements pdf icon PDF 229 KB

    Report from The Deputy Leader of the Council.

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    At the Council meeting on 1 March 2019 agreement was made to establish a Companies Committee to replace the Shareholder Committee. The number and breadth of Council companies had increased since the establishment of the Shareholder Committee and a fresh approach was needed.  Council owned companies must by law operate at arm’s length from the Council and have their own decision-making arrangements.   The proposed arrangements were designed to enhance corporate governance, to give an oversight and overview of all activities.  The report circulated with the agenda listed at 1.9 the number of entities that were wholly owned by the Council, their governance arrangements and their key aims.

     

    ·         Gravitas Housing

    ·         EnvironmentSK Ltd

    ·         EnvironmentSK (Commercial Services) Ltd

    ·         InvestSK

     

    Two further entities were listed, DeliverSK and HomesSK.   DeliverSK was being established as a joint 50/50 venture LLP where as HomesSK was in early discussion.

     

    Each company had its own legal obligations and duties.  The role of the Companies Committee was to provide the Council with a helicopter view, an oversight about the activities of the companies and the direction the Council wanted them to take.

     

    The arrangements meant that the Council would be seen to be acting in an open and transparent manner in respect of its trading activities, objectives of the companies were being delivered, performance and risk were being managed and the extent of delegation of responsibilities was clear.  A proper balance would be achieved between transparency and commercial confidentiality.

     

    The Companies Committee would have an oversight function of the companies at a strategic level, not on the day to day decisions at operational level, this would be for each Company Board.  The remit would ensure that the Council built successful companies or other appropriate legal vehicles; and that it approved the company business plans for each company to ensure that resources were deployed to achieve the outcomes and objectives that the Council wished to see being delivered; and that a robust performance framework was in place through which the companies could report their strategic performance against their Business Plan.

     

    The Interim Head of Legal referred Members to the appendices attached to the report.  Appendix 1 dealt with the new Companies Committee and included the Terms of Reference.  Powers relating to the Chairman and Vice-Chairman were also listed and included dealing with matters of an urgent nature.  The operational mechanisms were for each individual company to determine.  The Companies Committee was to have a strategic level overview making recommendations to the Cabinet on how it should exercise its functions and ensure that the activities of Companies were conducted in accordance with the corporate values of the Council.  The Terms of Reference also included making recommendations to the Cabinet on the appointment or removal of Council appointed company directors or on any aspect of the strategic performance of the companies/ventures within its overview and scrutiny role.

     

    A short discussion followed on what was classed as an emergency but it was stated that similar wording had been included within the remit of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Update on Constitution Review

    Presentation by the Monitoring Officer.

    Minutes:

    The Interim Head of Legal Services gave a brief presentation on the review of the Constitution.  The current Constitution had been based on the Local Government Act 2000 Model Constitution with local circumstances added. This had been patched over time so that the current Constitution was at times difficult to navigate.  The Constitution should contain the powers, duties and functions of the Council. Levels of delegations should be clear, who they are exercised, Council, Cabinet or Officers and to what extent, what are the limits of the delegation.   Decisions should be open, transparent and accountable.  The difference between Key Decisions and Non Key Decisions should be articulated in a clear manner.

     

    The current Constitution contained 18 Articles which could be simplified and condensed.  It was proposed that the new Constitution would contain six main chapters and would be modular in format so that revisions could be made quickly and simply without disrupting other content.    The content would recognise the changing relationships that the Council now had such as the different companies and joint ventures and would standardise procedure rules.  One Member commented about what other local authorities had within their Constitution and it was noted that as part of the work undertaken other authorities Constitutions would be looked at to incorporate best practice from across the country.  A comment was made about legal wording within the Constitution and it was agreed that the Constitution should be in plain English.  Members agreed with the modular approach suggested.  

     

    A project plan would be compiled and the review would be over at least a six month period with task and finish groups appointed.  It was proposed that the Monitoring Officer and Interim Head of Legal would lead the review process, rather than bring in external consultants.  External legal challenge to the new Constitution would be undertaken by a firm of solicitors, a lower cost than consultancy fees for the entire review.  External legal challenge was to make sure that it was fit for purpose.

     

    Members were pleased that the process would not be rushed and that views would be collated in relation to the draft document when complete.   Members did feel that a hard copy of the Constitution should be made available to Members of the Committee to enable them to make notes and have a starting base.  Members were happy with the proposed timeline of at least six months and the use of task and finish groups of relevant officers and Members.

     

    The Nolan Principals had been in effect for 25 years.  In January the Committee on Standards in Public Life had published a report on local government ethical standards which looked at the current framework governing the behaviour of local government councillors and made a number of recommendations to promote and maintain the standards expected by the public.   Roles and responsibilities had changed over time especially in today’s modern society with the prevalence of social media. The nature of gifts and hospitality had also changed and the code needed to be  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Close of Meeting