Review of Committee Structure (Agenda item 7)
Report of the Executive Member for the Communications and Corporate Services Portfolio (Stephen Askew).
The Member Services Manager presented the report which concerned a response to the request made from Full Council in November 2009 for a review of the committee structure. A number of proposals had been put forward to streamline the current decision making processes at Breckland Council.
The details of the proposals were explained and the recommendations were highlighted.
The Opposition Leader, who had tendered his apologies for this meeting, had emailed the Chairman to amplify the recommendation made from the Overview & Scrutiny Commission (O&SC) meeting held on 29th April 2010 with regard to the reduction to the committee membership. There had not been any disagreement about reducing the number of members on the Development Control Committee or the O&SC; however, such a reduction would result in both committees being comprised of 11 Conservative members and one Independent or Labour member. Though the right of the ruling Group to effect this change had been acknowledged, it was felt that morally the committees would benefit from a membership comprising ten Conservatives, one Independent and one Labour. The Commission had agreed that this would enrich the sense of democracy by allowing the alternative viewpoints of Independent and Labour to receive a voice.
The Vice-Chairman concurred with the views of the Commission. He felt that it would be unfortunate to reduce the opportunity of the Groups as they were fully entitled to put their views forward.
He disagreed, however, with the structure of the Task & Finish Groups (T&FG) – that the Chairmen should be serving members of the O&SC. He mentioned the proposal from the Executive Board meeting, where it was concurred that it should be opened up for any member to Chair such meetings. Referring to the number of T&FGs being limited to a maximum of three at any one time, he asked if the joint ARP/Scrutiny Group fell into this category.
The O&SC Chairman felt that three Groups was a good number to have. He pointed out that the LDF Group would eventually cease once the consultation period expired and the framework was adopted. He further pointed out that unanimous support had been expressed at the O&SC meeting to waive the political balance requirements.
O&SC Members had also been unanimous in agreeing that the Chairmen of the T&FGs should be drawn from sitting members of the Commission to allow for detailed questions of the Chairmen at O&SC meetings.
Speaking as a former T&FG Chairman and a former Member of the O&SC, the Executive Member for the Economic & Commercial Services Portfolio concurred with the above views.
The Chief Executive drew Members’ attention to recommendation 2.3 of the report and felt that the simple insertion of the word “normally” before the wording “from within their own membership” would suffice.
The Executive Member for the Planning, Health & Housing Portfolio reminded the Cabinet that if the joint ARP/Scrutiny was classed as a T&FG and the LDF was another that would only leave scope for one more. The O&SC Chairman suggested that the ARP/Scrutiny should be separate and not be included as one of the T&FGs.
There was some discussion about the Audit Committee overseeing the ARP, and the membership of the joint ARP/Scrutiny.
It was agreed that the joint ARP/Scrutiny Group be excluded.
Referring to the Committee Membership, the O&SC Chairman felt that such a reduction to the O&SC and the Development Control Committee warranted nominated substitutes.
To agree the recommendations as outlined in the report.
Not to agree (all or part of) the recommendations as outlined in the report, or to suggest alternatives for consideration.
Members and Officers had identified a number of areas where the Political Management arrangements could be improved at Breckland. By implementing the recommendations, Breckland Council would be able to improve the effectiveness of the Scrutiny Task & Finish Groups by focusing resources on areas of importance and make better use of Member time at committees.
Failure to implement the recommendations would delay the improvement of the Political Management arrangements at Breckland Council.
RECOMMEND to Council that the following changes be made to the Political Management Structure at Breckland Council (with appropriate changes made to the Council’s Constitution):
1. That no changes be made to the existing Committee Structure.
2. That the number of Task and Finish Groups that can be operated by the Overview and Scrutiny Commission (OSC) be limited to a maximum of three at any one time (including the LDF Group, but excluding the Joint OSC on Shared Services and ARP).
NB: The Council’s Constitution will include a clause whereby Full Council OR the Leader of the Council and Chairman of the OSC can establish a further Task Group, if the item for discussion is considered suitably expedient.
3. That, in future, the Three Task and Finish Group Chairmen be appointed by the Overview and Scrutiny Commission (normally from within their own membership) on a task by task basis rather than at the Annual Meeting of Council.
4. That no changes be made to the 2010/11 Meeting Schedule, as agreed by Full Council on 12 November 2009.
5. That committee membership is revised in accordance with the proposal in paragraph 3.2.8.
6. That, during the 2010/11 municipal year, the use of two named Conservative substitutes and one opposition substitute is trialled for appropriate committees.