Issue - meetings

Constitution - amendments to the establishment without full Council approval

Meeting: 20/01/2022 - Council (Item 22)

22 Constitution - Proposed Variations (Agenda item 22) pdf icon PDF 427 KB

Report of Councillor Ian Sherwood, Executive Member for People, Communications & Governance.


The Chairman introduced the report which had already been discussed at the Governance & Audit Committee meeting on 2 December 2021.


Councillor Ian Sherwood, the Executive Member for People, Communications & Governance presented the report and referred Members to the recommendations on page 376 of the agenda pack.


At the Governance & Audit Committee meeting, the proposals had been discussed, and all Members had been given the opportunity to raise any concerns or questions and subsequently had recommended the five recommendations to Full Council for approval. 


The recommendations were proposed and seconded and would be taken enbloc.


Councillor Jermy, the Leader of the Opposition did not support all the recommendations and was disappointed that these would not be taken individually and therefore he would be forced to vote against them all.  He asked for his opinion on this matter to be recorded.


He did not support recommendation no. 3, the variation to Standing Order No. 6, questions on notice and Standing Order no. 7, questions without notice as he felt that this was an attack on scrutiny and accountability and was being put forward as a vain drive on efficiencies. He reminded Members of how long previous Full Council meetings had lasted, not very long, and if this was too taxing for Members, this Council was in a sorry state of affairs.  Earlier in this meeting, all had heard that Members were so very hard working and were paid accordingly but now it was amending the Constitution to erode accountability in the name of efficiency and did not have the time every so often to subject itself to questioning.  He felt that the review that had been pencilled in for May 2023 was worth noting, as it was in the year when Breckland would be approaching the next set of Elections - Members would be voting to limit the opportunity for questioning, and then it would be reviewed. Even now, combining two Full Council meetings into one, this meeting had almost finished, and it had not even reached midday. The EDP had recently highlighted how elected Politicians were quick to seek out the press when sharing good news but went to ground when it was something that they did not want to talk about, like ‘beating horses’ for example.  These proposals were akin to these concerns, weakening accountability and scrutiny that led to bad decision making and ultimately a disservice to the Council’s residents; 40% of which did not vote Conservative at the last Election.


Councillor Jermy could not see how these meetings could be considered as lasting too long and he could not see that these proposals would lead to greater efficiency.  He felt that these meetings would be in comparison to Norfolk County Council’s – questions from the Opposition Group Leaders and in an attempt that they did not get a second round, those in the ruling Group would have some questions to fill the remainder of the time; therefore, every set of questions would be guaranteed to last for 30  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22

Meeting: 02/12/2021 - Governance and Audit Committee (Item 71)

71 Constitution - Proposed Variations pdf icon PDF 430 KB

Report of Councillor Ian Sherwood, Executive Member for People, Communications & Governance.


Councillor Robinson, the Executive Member for Customer, Digital and Performance presented the report that considered variations to the Constitution.  Section 151 Officer has a very high workload and generally appoints a Deputy to assist. It is proposed that the constitution is amended to allow delegation of the S151 functions and will cover the exercise of the functions in all situations and not when the S151 Officer is absent.


Full Council meetings are lengthening due to the number and complexity of questions asked by members to both the Leader, cabinet members and supplemental questions on notice. It is proposed that all of these are now combined into one item in the Council agenda and to limit the time to a period of 30 minutes. The order of who can ask the questions will remain.


Members at committees and sub-committees may requisition a recorded vote, but the Constitution is not clear about how many members need to support that requisition. It is proposed that the calculation will be the same as the quorate figure for that particular committee.


It is proposed that the delegation to the S151 officer be amended to include the power to write off debts in accordance with the debt recovery policy which has already been approved, and also be able to dispose of obsolete stores or equipment.


It is proposed that Chief Officers are authorised to make payments of compensation in connection with complaints to a maximum of £10,000 subject to agreement with the monitoring officer and appropriate cabinet member/chair of committee and to inform OSC. Currently any payments over £1000 are submitted to Council for approval.


Councillor James questioned why the figure of compensation had risen from £1000 to £10000 and what calculations had been used to reach that figure. 


It was also noted that changes should be made to reflect the policy of the Council to ensure that the Constitution was updated to future proof and ensure it remained gender neutral.


Councillor Monument asked if Paragraph 10 (d) of Part 3 Section F1 be re-worded to say ‘The Section 151 Officer shall in all instances ensure that where there is a conflict of interest in relation to any matter detailed in paragraph (c) above the matter is dealt with by the duly appointed Deputy (remove reference to they s/he).


Councillor Birt also queried if there had ever been a report submitted to full Council to authorise payments of compensation in connection with complaints over the £1000 threshold.  He also questioned if it should be reported to a committee if any amounts were to be paid.


Members heard that the £10000 limit had been set as it was in line with the insurance excess limits already in place.  Councillor Monument recalled that there had not been a report to full council in over 20-years that had related to payments over the £1000 threshold.


Councillor Clarke asked if the proposals for the role of the S151 Officer had been proposed in line with the Local Government Act.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 71