Agenda item

Member Training (Standing Item) (Agenda item 6)

Report of Sarah Barsby, Assistant Director of People & Governance.

 

A verbal update will also be provided to Members on the Member Training survey and the Members Intranet page.

 

Minutes:

Sarah Barsby, the Assistant Director for People & Governance presented the report.

 

The report outlined the Member training programme.  Additionally, as part of the former Member Development Panel (MDP), those Members had previously fed into a training needs assessment survey, and it was suggested that this draft survey should be shared with the General Purposes (GP) Committee Members ahead of the new intake of Councillors in 2023 after the District Elections to get a sense of what training was required.

 

Another survey undertaken at the last Member Development Panel was in respect of how the Members intranet pages could be improved, the Digital Team had been in attendance at that meeting to note any suggestions made, and since then, a new Members Page had been created in ‘test format’ and a link had been sent to MDP Members to obtain any feedback. This information would be shared with GP Members too, to get their views and how this page could be made into a more digital resource.

 

This Committee would then have proper oversight and an opportunity to have an input and both surveys would be circulated to GP Members after this meeting.

 

The Chairman mentioned the attendance statistics and the fact that many Members had asked for training sessions to be held via Zoom, but she had been disappointed that not many Members had taken up this opportunity. She was aware that training was voluntary and different ways of learning was being offered but felt that more should be done to encourage Members to attend.

 

On that point about non-attendance, Councillor Ashby asked if a process could be put in place of why Members had not been able to attend, to gather data, and suggested a drop-down menu.

 

The Chairman pointed out that this could raise a GDPR issue, and such training was voluntary, but it could form part of the survey response. This could be investigated provided any confidentiality matters were taken into account.

 

Members were informed that the assessment survey would provide a better understanding of Members’ availability.

 

Councillor Monument felt it would be useful if great care was taken on how the questions were asked.  She herself had no problems at all with attending meetings in person or virtually via Zoom but if she was asked to vote for either of these it would unfairly balance the count.  She felt that the questions on availability/preference should include more detail to provide better feedback.

 

As a fairly new Councillor, Councillor Hambidge asked if the previous training sessions held via Zoom were available to view.

 

Teresa Smith, the Democratic Services Team Leader advised that all training presentations were available on the Members’ Page but if there was anything that he was interested in that he could not find she would try and assist.

 

Councillor Bambridge reminded the Committee that there were 49 existing Members that could be used as Mentors for any new Members.

 

Councillor Webb pointed out that the uptake for the housing presentations had been fairly low and was subsequently told it was because they were being held during the day when Members were at work.  The Housing Team had then worked extremely hard to provide some evening sessions but even then, attendance had been low. This was disheartening for the Officers as a great deal of work was involved and it was very difficult to please everyone and therefore felt that the assessment survey would be very useful.

 

Councillor Dowling agreed with the aforementioned comments it was very difficult to get a time that was suitable for everyone but wondered whether some of the training should be made compulsory.

 

In response, the Chairman advised that some of the training was mandatory, for example Members who sat on the Planning Committee or the Licensing Committees, they had to attend such training sessions to be able to undertake their duties as a Member of those committees.  She felt that the Code of Conduct should be mandatory and could be considered going forward. She also felt that training should be a commitment to the role of a Councillor not just to turn up at an occasional meeting.

 

Councillor Hambidge explained his daytime employment and the points system that had to be adhered to, to retain his licence and asked if it would be an idea to have a points system brought in for attendance at training sessions.

 

Sarah Wolstenholme-Smy, the Legal Services Manager said that she would have to explore the legality of such an idea of enforcing Members to attend training.  She agreed with the Chairman that Licensing and Planning Committees were more or less an exception as they required certain training to carry out their roles and this would be further explored.

 

Councillor Monument could see the advantage in compulsory development training in her career but asked if there could be any form of sanction put in place when Members failed to attend.

 

The Legal Services explained that she would look into this as it could be tied in with the Code of Conduct, but the Council did not have authority to suspend Councillors for nonattendance at training.

 

The Chairman reminded Members that there used to be a personal development system in place for all Councillors where one to one interviews were held with Human Resources.  This was done for those Councillors who had aspirations to become Chairmen or just for further development to assist them in their roles.  In the first year that this was done, she had asked the Officer involved where this information was kept   and had been told that it was just kept on file.  She felt that such a programme should be created to enable individual Councillors to state what training they would prefer.

 

The Assistant Director of People & Governance felt that some of the suggestions were quite attractive but wondered if it could be looked at in another way so it was more of an encouragement so the more points that were accrued those Members could reach a certain standard of professional development the same as a number of other organisations.

 

Councillor Webb felt that more thought should go into the on-line training.  Members could then choose to do this at any time when they had the time with a test at the end.

 

Referring to the point made about compulsory training, Councillor Bambridge advised that this had been tried in the past and was deemed impossible plus it was not legal to limit what Councillors did simply because of lack of training.  He emphasised the fact that the quality of the training had to be taken into account and mentioned the recent Licensing training session that had taken place which everyone thoroughly enjoyed.

 

The Chairman thanked everyone for their suggestions and between now and the next meeting the links to the surveys would be sent to Committee Members.  Training would be a standing item on the agenda so further discussions could be had.

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