Venue: Virtual meeting - this meeting will be held remotely
Contact: Lucy Bonshor
Register of attendance, membership and apologies for absence
All Members of the Committee were present apart from Councillor Bellamy who was substituted by Councillor Ray Wootten.
Disclosure of interests
Members are asked to disclose any interests in matters for consideration at the meeting.
The minutes of the meeting held on 16 December 2019 were agreed.
Officers were thanked for the work that had been undertaken to date in respect of the Constitution Review.
Report from the Chairman of the Constitution Committee.
The Chairman of the Constitution Committee presented her report. At the meeting of the Committee on 16 December 2019 a Working Group was formed to review the Constitution; it was composed of all Members of the Committee. Since its formation, the Working Group had met four times and had discussed the following topics:
· The role of Members
· Engagement by the public
· Member training
· The Committee’s own remit
· Rules of procedure
· Clarity around definitions such as Key Decisions
Work was also on going by the Head of Governance to review and refresh the Scheme of Delegation which would be reported to a future meeting of the Committee.
The Covid-19 pandemic had meant that the review had been suspended to support urgent decision-making and the establishment of remote Committee meetings. A revised project plan was shown at Appendix 1 to the report.
Appendix 2 to the report gave a revised structure to the Constitution which was split into 10 parts.
· Part 1 contained a Summary.
· Part 2 contained the Articles.
· Part 3 dealt with the Responsibility for Functions.
· Part 4 concerned Procedure Rules.
· Part 5 covered Codes and Protocols.
· Part 6 covered Financial Regulations.
· Part 7 covered the Contract Procedure Rules.
· Part 8 dealt with the Petition Scheme.
· Part 9 covered the Members Allowance Scheme.
· Part 10 covered Templates.
Appendix 3 detailed the changes that had been made to the Summary section of the Constitution. Appendix 4 detailed the changes to Article 1, The Constitution, Appendix 5 covered Article 2, Members of the Council, Appendix 6 covered Article 3, Members of the Public and the Council, Appendix 7 dealt with Decision Making and Appendix 8 contained a table showing the significant amounts other authorities used when making Key Decisions.
Each appendix showed track changes where changes had been made or where wording had been moved to another more relevant section of the Constitution.
One Member expressed concern that the Constitution would primarily be available electronically and that hard copies were available on request for a fee. She also referred to mandatory training for certain Committees. She had attended licensing training but had not been allowed to substitute on the Committee. This was being looked at as part of the review and would be embedded within the Constitution.
Another Member referred to where political balance had been crossed out and it was stressed that this had been a section header only. The requirements relating to political proportionality of committees were set out in legislation. The Committee requested the addition of some text to the Summary and Explanation referring to the requirements for politically balanced committees.
More discussion followed in relation to the appointment of outside bodies and the functions of the Overview and Scrutiny Committees that had been written within the summary section of the Constitution. One Member felt that this did not fully reflect the role of an Overview and Scrutiny Committee. It was stated that information contained within some areas had been moved to more appropriate parts of the Constitution.
Local Government Association consultation on draft Members' Code of Conduct 2020
The Head of Governance presented the Leader’s report on the Local Government Association consultation on draft Members’ Code of Conduct 2020. In January 2019 the Committee on Standards in Public Life published its report into Local Government Ethical Standards. The first recommendation raised within the report was that the Local Government Association (LGA) should create an updated model Code of Conduct in consultation with representative bodies of councillors and officers of all tiers of local government.
A draft of the Local Government Association’s model Code of Conduct was appended to the report for Members to discuss. The consultation period ran until 17 August 2020 and was, structured around an online questionnaire, the questions for which was also appended to the report. The feedback from the consultation would help develop the final document which would be reviewed by the Local Government Association’s Advisory Board before being presented to the Local Government Association General Assembly in Autumn 2020.
As the Constitution Committee had already informally discussed some areas contained within the document, it was felt that the Committee was a good starting point to draft a response on behalf of the Council. The response would then be open to other Members to make comment.
The Committee agreed to go through the questionnaire and comment on the themes contained in the document adding any narrative that they wished.
The Chairman referred to the gifts and hospitality section and the gifts she had received during her time as the Mayor of Grantham, which she had declared. Currently the Council’s Constitution stated that gifts with a value of £50 should be disclosed; the limit proposed in the LGA draft model code was £25. The Head of Governance indicated that the LGA had done a comprehensive piece of work on gifts and hospitality. The proposed figure was based on feedback received during the consultation, including feedback from public and private organisations.
One Member felt that joining with national bodies was a good idea and that democratic views were made across the board. She felt that Parish and Town Councils should be encouraged to adopt the code. It was stated that although it was not anticipated that adopting the updated model Code would be mandatory, there was an expectation that a District Council’s Code of Conduct would be mirrored by the Parish and Town Council’s and neighbouring authorities in their area.
One Member asked for clarity around the definitions of gifts and hospitality. He felt that greater clarity was required regarding attending functions and corporate hospitality.
The Director of Law and Governance said that the draft Code did seek to clarify gifts and hospitality and referred Members to the appropriate areas within the appendix. Gifts received due to their role as a Member should be declared. If Members felt that the draft Code did not give enough detail in relation to gifts and hospitality, then this could be included in their feedback, particularly in relation to other areas where there was a potential to receive gifts, such ... view the full minutes text for item 23.
Close of meeting
The meeting closed at 12:57pm.