Council meetings

Agenda item

Constitutional update


This item was introduced by the Head of Law, who explained that the report proposed amendments to the Council’s Constitution to reflect the provisions contained within Schedule 2 Localism Act 2011.


Members carefully considered the proposed amendments, and highlighted the following points:


  • Councillor Hall asked whether the Councillor Call for Action had been abolished as part of the Act.  The Head of Law said that it remained and that it had been consolidated within the Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules.


  • Councillor Jeffrey said that the Constitutional wording around the Licensing Committee suggested that the Committee was obliged to establish four Sub-Committees and asked whether this was the case.  The Head of Law said that this option existed for the Committee but was not mandatory and said that this would be re-examined.


  • Councillor Jeffrey noted that whether proposed changes to the scope of questions could be robustly enforced.  She noted that questions were often posed at full Council that were substantially the same as a question put to Council within the previous three months, in spite of the fact that this was not allowed for constitutionally.  Members suggested that Council Questions were on occasion abused.  Councillor Wise said that it would be helpful if questions of a similar nature were assimilated to allow for more questions at one session.  The Head of Law said that there was a balance to be struck in permitting as many Council Questions as possible to ensure transparency while ruling out questions that were frivolous or repetitive. 


  • Councillor Clutten said that similar questions could be asked at consecutive Council meetings because the answers provided were insufficient the first time and said that it would be helpful for Members the full range of ways beyond Council Questions in which Members could source information. 


  • Councillor Britton suggested that the wording around Quorum be amended to read “A meeting of the Executive or a Committee of it will not be quorate if neither the Mayor not the Deputy Mayor are present unless five other Members of the Executive are present.”  The Head of Law said that this would be amended accordingly.


  • The Head of Law said that a number of Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules were subject to change, as set out within the report, but that many of the legislative changes had already been incorporated.  The changes would help in allowing Members to raise items more easily on Overview and Scrutiny agenda.


  • Councillor Jeffrey asked what had necessitated the amendments to the Contract Procedure Rules.  Ms Helen Glass said that this was required due to amendments around legislation for Category C contracts.


  • The Head of Law said that the proposed Constitutional amendments also reflected that the Health and Wellbeing Board (HWB), currently in shadow form, would be a formal Committee of the Council from April 2013.  Councillor Jeffrey asked whether the HWB would be bound by the same Constitutional regulations as other Committees.  The Head of Law said that the Council was awaiting guidance from the Department of Health and the Department of Communities and Local Government on this point, and that further changes to the Constitution would most likely need to be made in due course to reflect this guidance.


  • Members noted the proposed amendments to Members’ Allowances, noting that, due to changes set out within the Localism Act, an elected Member rather than an Independent Member would now take the Chair of the Standards Committee, and that allowances would need to be amended to reflect this.  Members also noted the amendments allowed for an allowance to be granted to the Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee in the instance that they were not chair of one of the other Planning Committees.


Members said that it would be useful if, in future, changes to the Constiution were marked with “tracked changes” to allow Members to more easily monitor such changes.  The Head of Law acknowledged the point.


The Head of Law said that the mandate for local authorities to make an e-petitions facility available had been repealed by the Localism Act and asked Members for their views on whether the Council should maintain this facility.  Members said that it was not a facility that had been commonly used by Borough residents and that remained a number of ways in which members of the public could engage with the Council.  However, some Members expressed concern that removing e-petitions would remove one recourse for members of the public to place items on Committee agenda and were keen to ensure that measures which improved transparency and openness should remain.


The Chair said that differing views on e-petitions had been expressed and said that the Working Party would reconsider this at a future date.


RESOLVED        a) that the proposed amendments to the Constitution be approved, subject to Members’ further amendments as suggested above, and recommended their approval to full Council.


                              b) that a report on Special Responsibility Allowances, particularly in relation to the Chairs of Strategic Planning and Standards Committees, will be brought to Council on 26 September 2012;


                              c) that officers give further consideration to the maintenance of the e-petitions facility and make recommendations to the Working Party as appropriate.

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