Review of the Constitution
Report of the Cabinet Member Corporate Services.
The Cabinet Member Corporate Services introduced the report and explained the background to the recommendations from the Constitution Working Group as outlined in the report.
He also requested Council to determine criteria for submitting public questions –with the report suggesting that this should match the criteria for signing petitions as per the council’s petition scheme, i.e. to live, work and study in the borough rather than the current criteria which restricted it to borough electors.
Finally, the Cabinet Member Corporate Services wished to thank the Constitution Working Group for their input and the officers involved in bringing this report forward.
The following points were raised and responses given :
· The Chair of the Constitution Working Group referred to paragraph 6 of the report and requested that at its next meeting the group should consider the use of secret voting on appointments to outside bodies
· One Member welcomed the recent increase in the number of young people becoming involved in politics and so wished the criteria to include the under 18 age group. This was accepted by the Cabinet Member.
A discussion ensued on the criteria for submitting public questions and the following points were made :
· A Member highlighted the importance of scrutiny, accountability and transparency in the way the Council conducted its business. He observed that any politically motivated questions should be regarded as opportunities for the authority to explain why it was doing the things it was doing. He also observed the fact that Members themselves could generate public questions. He believed that a requirement of submitting a question should be to disclose a business address so that the relevance and potential political motivation could be determined. He also suggested that the 30 minute time limit for questions be enforced and if necessary questions prioritised.
· Lengthy preambles should be discouraged
· The 30 minute allocation to discuss public questions could be viewed as stifling debate
· Recognised that the timing required for submitting public questions was tight
· Where questions were not relevant to this authority, for example those at this meeting relating to the Traffic Regulation Order should be redirected to GCC. In response the Cabinet Member Development and Safety said that in this instance it was appropriate to provide answers to the questions and would reflect badly on the authority if they were disallowed.
· The Leader explained that in terms of supplementary questions the Cabinet always answered as best it could but there was always the possibility to provide an answer in writing if further information was sought.
The Chair of the Audit Committee wished to thank officers for bringing forward the proposal to change the name of the Audit Committee to the Audit, Compliance and Governance Committee which more accurately reflected the role of the committee. He wished to encourage other Members to gain a better insight into its work which ensured that the correct processes and compliance issues were in place.
1. The criteria for submitting Public Questions be revised to apply to those living, working and studying in the borough and included under 18s (Parts 4A, 4B, 4C and 4D)
2. The revised:
1.1 Procurement rules in Part 4I Contract Rules and Article 14 Finance, Contracts and Legal Matters
1.3 Amendments to the Appointment of Substitute Members of Committees (Parts 4A and 4C)
1.4 Amendments to Voting on Appointments at Council (Part 4A)
1.5 Petition Scheme (Appendix H)
3. The change of the name of the Audit Committee to the Audit, Compliance & Governance Committee be approved.
4. The Chair of the Investigating and Disciplinary Committee or its equivalent be given authority where appropriate and in a case of urgency to suspend a Relevant Officer(as defined by the Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) Regulations 2001).
5. Authority be delegated to the Borough Solicitor to make any textual or other amendments which are necessary to ensure accuracy, consistency and legality of the Constitution when incorporating the revisions authorised by Council.