In light of the national situation around coronavirus and in preparation for any special arrangements that may be required in order to allow council business to continue, Council are asked to authorise the Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer to make the necessary amendments to the Constitution.
The Leader of the Council introduced the report, noting that the draft report had been circulated to group leaders and committee chairmen. Legislation surrounding special arrangements for local government was constantly evolving in respect of new provisions by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government - such as holding meetings remotely. As a result, there would be small changes to the Council’s constitution to enable Council business to continue. He highlighted that those arrangements were time-limited until the County Council meeting on 13 October, subject to review by the Audit and Governance Committee.
Members made the following comments:
In response the Leader explained that the constitutional changes would not change the power structure within the Council as it was a practical step to ensure the continuation of council business. He agreed that a draft protocol would be circulated to all Members. He was hopeful that the additional temporary powers granted such as the ability to hold meetings remotely, would lead to a future change in the legislation. He recalled that the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government had given special consideration to planning and licensing committees. The Leader noted that in some situations there would not be delegated decisions by officers regarding the Planning and Regulatory Committee, as significant decisions would be delayed where possible until full meetings were convened.
The chairman of the Audit and Governance Committee asked for any committee members present to discuss outside of the meeting how it wished to operate as a result of the report’s recommendations - despite self-isolating he urged Members to contact him if they had any concerns.
1. To amend the definition within the Council’s Constitution (as far as the law allows) to define Cabinet as a formal meeting of Cabinet or the Leader or nominated Cabinet Member making a decision in consultation with at least two other Cabinet Members.
2. To delegate all non-executive decisions (as far as the law allows) to the relevant proper officer in consultation with the relevant chairman or member nominated by the chairman.
3. To agree that any member unable to attend a council meeting for a period greater than six months for virus related reasons, receives a dispensation further to section 85(1) of the Local Government Act 1972 to December 2020.
4. To resolve that a protocol be agreed with the Chairman of the Council and group leaders to set out the arrangements for decision making with committee members prior to any officer decision usually referred to committee. Protocol to include:
a) Notice and reports for the public and committee members
b) Any representations from members on decisions
c) Arrangements for ‘virtual’ meetings, discussions or recommendations from members of the committees/members of the public/other councillors.
5. To agree that the Audit and Governance Committee will monitor the use of the protocol and make recommendations on any required amendments to the protocol to ensure that Members remain informed in relation to council decision making.
6. To authorise the Monitoring Officer in consultation with the Chairman of the Council and group leaders to incorporate any legislative changes issued by Government into council business processes.
7. To agree existing chairmen, vice-chairmen and committee appointments continue in line with political group wishes.
8. To review these measures at the 13 October 2020 meeting of the Council or as soon as practicable thereafter as determined by the Audit and Governance Committee.