The Cabinet Member for Corporate Governance and Licensing presented a report which provided Full Council with an opportunity to formally approve new Parts of the Constitution following a comprehensive review of the document.
The Cabinet Member reported that a key principle of the review had been openness, transparency and engagement with all Members of the Council. Mapping and working documents had been developed to make it easy for Members to identify and track where any amendments, deletions or additions had been made to the Council’s existing Constitution as it transitioned into the new format. These documents had been shared with all Members of the Council prior to workshops held for specific sections as the new Constitution developed, where all Members were invited to make comments or suggestions. These workshops were very successful and lots of the comments and suggestions put forward had shaped the final versions.
In proposing the recommendations contained within the report, together with some amendments she had published as a supplement to the agenda pack for the meeting, the Cabinet Member thanked the Constitution Committee for its thoroughness in considering the various documents associated with the review. She also thanked those Officers who had been involved in the review for the work they had undertaken.
The proposition was seconded by the Chairman of the Constitution Committee who extended his gratitude to those Members who attended workshops and contributed to the development of the new document. He was of the view that this new document could act as a baseline and accepted that there may still be elements requiring further tweaks which his Constitution Committee would be able to consider in due course.
Councillor Richard Cleaver proposed the following amendments to the motion:
· Planning Procedure Rules (Appendix I), paragraph 6.3 – deletion of the existing paragraph and replacement with the following words:
‘The order of speaking at the Planning Committee when considering applications will be:
i. Any objectors to the application
ii. Any supporters of the application
iii. Any representation from the relevant Town or Parish Council
iv. District Councillor for the relevant electoral ward
v. The applicant or agent for the applicant
The 'relevant electoral ward' (to define the relevant ward councillors) is defined as those wards which fall inside or adjacent to the boundary of the planning application in question.’
· Planning Procedure Rules (Appendix I), paragraph 6.4 – replacement of the words ‘three minutes’ with the words ‘four minutes.’
· Planning Delegated Powers (Appendix N), paragraph 2.2(1) – deletion of the first sentence and addition of the words or a minimum of any three councillors, or any member of the Planning Committee so that it reads:
‘Any application for planning permission, approval of Reserved Matters, Conservation Area Consent, tree works approval or Listed Building Consent where a Councillor from the relevant or an adjoining ward, or a minimum of any three councillors, or any member of the Planning Committee has requested, in writing within 21 days of being notified of the application, that the application be considered by Committee.’
· Planning Delegated Powers (Appendix N) – insertion of new paragraph 2.3(2) to read:
‘Any application for Major Development as defined in the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2010.’
In relation to the proposed amendment to change the running order of speakers at the Planning Committee, Councillor Cleaver explained that local ward Members would benefit from hearing and listening to what other speakers had to say prior to making their own contributions. He also explained that the definition of a relevant electoral ward should cover circumstances whereby the boundary of a site ran adjacent to the boundary of a neighbouring electoral ward to the ward within which it was located.
The amendments were seconded.
In debating the amendments, the following points were noted:
· The Chairman of the Planning Committee should be able to use their discretion to change the running order of speakers;
· All Councillors had the right to attend meetings of the Planning Committee so the amendment regarding reference to the relevant electoral ward was already covered as the Chairman could use their discretion to allow them to speak
· Allowing additional time as part of public speaking would result in longer meetings of the Planning Committee and multiple speakers on applications were already allowed and encouraged
· The proposed amendment regarding the adjoining boundary was understandable
· The proposed amendments should be reviewed in more detail before any decision was taken to adopt them as part of the new Constitution. The Chairman of the Constitution Committee highlighted that he would be willing to convene a meeting of the Committee for this purpose
· It was important that all Members understood the new call-in process relating to planning applications in their respective wards
Further to the invitation from the Chairman of the Constitution Committee to give due consideration to the proposed amendments, Councillor Richard Cleaver withdrew his amendments.
During the debate, Councillor Charmaine Morgan signalled her intention to propose a similar amendment regarding the definition of relevant electoral ward and was content for this to matter to also be deferred to the Constitution Committee.
It was proposed, seconded and upon being put to the vote AGREED that the duration of the meeting be extended for 30 minutes.
Councillor Ashley Baxter proposed the following amendments:
· Council Procedure Rules (Appendix C) – reinstatement of the paragraph titled ‘Supplementary question’ after paragraph 11.9
· Council Procedure Rules (Appendix C) – deletion of paragraphs 14.5(f) and 14.26 in respect of ‘Point of Information’
· Access to Information Procedure Rules (Appendix D) – deletion of paragraph 22.2 regarding discretion of the Leader to allow non-Cabinet Members to speak at meetings of Cabinet
· Access to Information Procedure Rules (Appendix D) – reinstatement of paragraph 8.5.7 of the current Constitution as a new paragraph 22.2
· Cabinet Procedure Rules (Appendix F), paragraph 7.2 – deletion of the words ‘at the discretion of the Leader, or person presiding the meeting, but the same provision must be available for all Councillors in attendance for the respective item’ and replacement with the words ‘and ask the relevant Cabinet Member questions on any item(s) on the agenda’
· Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules (Appendix G) – deletion of paragraph 4.4
· Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules (Appendix G) – insertion of the words ‘Between meetings, changes to’ at the beginning of the paragraph so that it reads:
‘Between meetings, changes to the work programme for Overview and Scrutiny Committees will be determined by the Chairman of each Overview and Scrutiny Committee.’
· Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules (Appendix G) – deletion of paragraph 5.3
· Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules (Appendix G) – deletion of the words ‘at the discretion of the Chairman, or person presiding the meeting, but the same provision must be available for all Councillors in attendance for the respective item’ and replacement with the words ‘and ask questions on any item(s) on the agenda’
The following points were noted in presenting the amendments:
· Removing the right to ask a supplementary question was an unnecessary new restriction on public participation which provided an opportunity for questioners to ask Councillors to clarify or elaborate on their previous answer or to ask a similar question if the Councillor had misunderstood the original
· The existing Constitution did not permit Points of Information and the new document should not as this could be a licence to interrupt the flow of another speaker
· Introducing new rules whereby the Leader of the Council or Chairmen of Overview and Scrutiny Committees had discretion to decide whether non-Cabinet or non-Committee Members could speak would not help with accountability or scrutiny and restricted opportunities to ask questions or make contributions
· Introducing a new rule to allow Overview and Scrutiny Committee Chairmen to defer requests for agenda items to the subsequent meeting could delay consideration of urgent or contentious items
The amendments were seconded.
In debating the amendments, the following points were noted:
· It was concerning if this process had been used to facilitate a ‘power grab’
· Anything that sought to close down or restrict debate would be frowned upon by the public, who were already sceptical
· The Council currently had in place some of the best Chairmen of Committees it had ever had who would allow non-Committee Members to participate at meetings
· This set of amendments should also be considered by the Constitution Committee prior to any decision being taken on them. The Chairman of the Constitution Committee reiterated his previous comment that he would be willing to establish a meeting of the Committee to facilitate consideration of these proposed amendments to the Constitution
Further to the invitation from the Chairman of the Constitution Committee to give due consideration to the proposed amendments, Councillor Ashley Baxter withdrew his amendments.
Having been proposed and seconded, upon being put to the vote the recommendations contained within the report, together with the amendments published in the supplementary agenda pack by the Cabinet Member for Corporate Governance and Licensing, were AGREED.
That Full Council:
1. Approves the following new Parts of the Constitution, as appended to the report, subject to incorporation of the amendments set out in the supplementary agenda pack published by the Cabinet Member for Corporate Governance and Licensing:
- Part 1 (Summary and Explanation), as set out in Appendix A
- Part 2 (Articles of the Constitution), as set out in Appendix B
- Part 4 (Rules of Procedure), as set out in Appendices C to K
- Financial Regulations, as set out in Appendix L
- Contract Procedure Rules, as set out in Appendix M
2. Approves the proposed changes to delegated authority in respect of planning matters, as set out in Appendix N and that these be reflected in Part 3 (Responsibility for Functions) of the Constitution.
3. Approves the Local Code of Good Practice, as set out in Appendix O as part of the Planning Procedure Rules for inclusion at Part 4 of the Constitution.
4. Approves that the Councillor Code of Conduct, Protocol for Relationships between Members and Officers and the Code of Conduct for Council Staff form the new Part 5 (Codes and Protocols) section of the Constitution.
5. Approves that the Members’ Allowances Scheme forms the new Part 6 (Members’ Allowances Scheme) section of the Constitution.
6. Approves that the Council’s management structure, following the Chief Executive’s review of the Corporate Management Team and Senior Leadership Team, forms the new Part 7 (Management Structure) section of the Constitution.
7. Authorises the Assistant Director of Governance to produce appropriate indexing, page numbering and formatting prior to publication of the new Constitution, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Corporate Governance and Licensing.