The Monitoring Officer presented a report, the purpose of which, was for the Council to approve the revised constitution and constitution guides.
She explained that a new model Constitution has been considered by each local authority and has become common place. The style of the new constitution is more intelligible to the public and there is less duplication. Whilst the new model contains detailed provisions, adopting the model constitution does not require all of those detailed provisions to be adopted and therefore following a local review by officers, some of the Council’s existing detailed provisions concerning procedure rules, codes of conduct and protocols have been retained in order to preserve continuity and retain the valuable work that has been done over the years in reviewing each part of the existing constitution.
The Monitoring Officer explained, that whilst the revised draft constitution (Appendix 1 to the report) looked quite different from the current version, by its very nature, the document largely comprises the same elements. These include Procedural Rules for Council, the Executive and Scrutiny Committees, Financial Procedure Rules, Contract Procedure Rules and Member Code of Conduct. In reality, the extent of actual changes in terms of how the Council works are quite small as the general view is that significant elements of the current constitution remain “fit for purpose”. Consequently, significant elements of the sections governing how the Full Council, the Executive and the Scrutiny Committees operate remain largely the same, if not identical, to the current version.
Attached at Appendix 2 to this report was a constitution guide based on the Browne Jacobson model guide and adapted to reflect the Council’s constitutional arrangements. A guide summarising all the provisions of the constitution was also attached as Appendix 3.
The Monitoring Officer informed Members, that the model Constitution and guides were considered by the Democratic Services Committee on 7 July 2022 and the Committee recommended that a Working Group be established with support from the Group Manager - Legal and Democratic Services to review all aspects of the constitution as part of its improvement journey.
Appendix 4 summarised the issues identified through discussions from the Working Group and sets out a series of recommendations arising from the Group for consideration as a means of improving the Council’s good governance. Since the last meeting of the Working Group, it should be noted that further amendments have been made to the Officers’ Code of Conduct (Section 20) following consultation with Trade Unions.
The Chairperson of the Democratic Services Committee commended the input of the Cross-Party Working Group that had been established to review the revised Constitution.
A Member referred to page 266 of the report, paragraph 4.11.4 and announcements from dignitaries and asked if consideration could be given to amend this part of the Constitution, so as to allow questions from Members on these.
He also referred to page 395 and paragraph 9.2.2 where reference was made to Regulatory Committees and asked, that where it specified that one Cabinet Member representative could be a member of the Governance and Audit Committee, this be removed. He also made reference to whipping declarations that applied to Overview and Scrutiny, also applying to other Committees, for example, full Council.
The Monitoring Officer advised that with regard to Regulatory Committees, local authorities were governed by statute which included the recommended composition of bodies such as the Governance and Audit Committee (in line with the above), and therefore we had to abide by this legislation.
She added that there would be further opportunities in the future whereby Members could give consideration to a further review of the Constitution as a working document, should they feel this was required.
A Member made reference to Section 4.20 point 4, paragraph b of the report and where reference was made to a vote of no confidence in the Leader of the Council, where it stated that the removal of the Leader required ‘two thirds’ of Members voting at the time the question is put. He proposed an amendment to this, namely that reference to ‘two thirds’ be changed to ‘a majority’ of Members voting at the time the question is put. This motion was duly seconded.
The amendment went to a vote, the result of which was as follows:-
For (the amendment) Against Abstain
16 29 0
The amendment therefore was not sufficiently supported.
Following this vote Members then,
RESOLVED: That Council:
• Approved the recommendations of the Democratic Services Committee Working Group (Appendix 4 to the report);
• Further approved the revised constitution (Appendix 1) and guide (Appendix 2 and 3) to take effect from 1 December 2022.