Agenda item

Member Induction 2023 (Agenda item 9)

Report of Councillor Jane James, Executive Member for Customer & Corporate Services.


Councillor James, the Executive Member for Customer & Corporate Services was delighted to introduce this report to Members.


Sarah Barsby, the Assistant Director for People & Governance and Teresa Smith, the Democratic Services Team Leader then presented the report and provided Members with a presentation (attached).


The Assistant Director for People & Governance stated that the presentation drew out the key themes within the report.


As part of next year’s district election, Breckland Council would like the welcome that Members received to be more reflective of the organisation as it was currently; modern, agile, people and community focussed, committed to learning and improving (through training and support). Along with support from the Portfolio Holder, Councillor Jane James and the Chairman of the General Purposes Committee, Councillor Lynda Turner, there was a shared ambition for all Elected members, regardless of their experience, to feel supported and confident in carrying out their role for the benefit of their community, and the district as a whole.


The Democratic Services Team Leader then explained the proposed Member Induction Plan that would cover three key election milestones:


·        Pre-election – promotional prospective candidate

·        Formally elected – the day of the Election, pre-induction Breckland Council welcome pack

·        Post election, covering:

Member Induction, and

Member Training (the first three months)


It had been suggested that the prospective Councillor event this year, in order to attract as wide a pool of prospective candidates as possible, Officers were proposing to promote the well-established information sessions provided by Norfolk Association of Local Councils (NALC). This would avoid duplication of effort and enable the team to focus on launching an awareness campaign.


The PR campaign, the Council’s Awareness Campaign, would be featured on its social and digital channels, including the Breckland Council website, signposting to relevant and useful resources, such as those offered by NALC and the Local Government Association, for those considering becoming a councillor


The pre-induction Breckland Council welcome pack would be more aligned with the staff induction experience, and it was proposed that the pack would consist of a link to a welcome video from the Chief Executive, a notebook, pen, a Breckland Cares key ring a lanyard (in preparation for their ID card) and postcards with QR codes directing Members to various elements on the Breckland Council website to support them in their first days.  These could include links to the Code of Conduct and Declaration of Interest forms.


The Member Induction itself, as soon as practicably possible after the Election, Members, newly Elected Members and/or existing Members, would be invited to attend a ‘Welcome to Breckland’ session at Elizabeth House, at a date to be agreed. This session, based on feedback, would be shorter than in previous years and would concentrate on the ‘Place’ by having market stalls from different service areas to provide information on the services that Breckland provided, the Council itself on what it was and what it did in its place in the 3-tier Local Government system, how the Council worked, the #teambreckland, including working smarter, the Corporate Plan & its priorities and achievements.  During this session, there would be an opportunity for Members to collect their new ID badges, and so not to overload Members with too much information on one day, there would then be a separate follow up session that would cover day to day essentials such as governance, members allowances, Code of Conduct and how to access agendas and minutes.


During the first 3 months, there would be a plan in place for a number of face-to-face training sessions that would be offered to Members covering the core basics of Breckland.  These sessions would be recorded for the benefit of those Members unable to attend and for future reference throughout Members’ tenure. Examples of these sessions were highlighted (see section 1.6 of the report).


In terms of Members ongoing planning and development following the initial 3-month period, the Assistant Director for People & Governance explained that some key learning resources would be developed for all members making as many of these planning and development sessions available 24/7 to suit members who had other commitments including work.  This would include developing a training library on the Members’ intranet that would provide copies of training sessions and links to legislation and ‘How to Guides’.  Additionally, ‘e’ learning which would include links to the LGA website including a link to the new Councillor Hub provided by the LGA.    


Two other options for Members to consider was a mentoring scheme where existing Members could get involved in offering mentoring to new Councillors (see section 1.7.1 of the report) as well as a training needs assessment questionnaire to ensure that ongoing training and development needs were being suitably met. This had not been put together yet, but it was proposed that when new Members had the chance to settle in this questionnaire would be circulated and dependent on feedback, an ongoing training programme would be developed for the remainder of their term. Appendix A of the report included the questions that were proposed to be included.


In terms of the next steps, Members were then asked to provide feedback on this proposed approach, and subject to feedback, a Working Group would be set up where various support services would be brought in, to ensure that this Induction Programme was up and running in time.  It was also proposed that a further report be brought back to this Committee in the New Year to discuss progress and whether all these plans were on track.


Councillor Hambidge had been a member who was elected mid-term and had not been privy to such an induction and he felt that it would have been helpful to have a sheet of paper that signposted Members where to go and who to contact for a specific problem.


The Assistant Director for People & Governance said she was very mindful of this and one of the subjects that had been discussed was to develop a Microsoft Teams chat therefore, for new Members in particular, if they had a question and did not know who to contact, could then ask a question in that forum which would hopefully be answered.

This could be set up just as a Member Group, as a safe space to support each other, and it could be arranged for the Democratic Services Team to have access to that group as well to ensure that such questions were being responded to effectively. A separate group would also be set up which would be owned and managed by Democratic Services and as Members were already aware there was always someone from the Team seated at the concierge desk in Elizabeth House 5 days a week.

Councillor Duigan said that such a contact list was available for Norfolk County Council Members.


Councillor Monument stated that Members had not really been using Teams or Zoom all that long but she had been fortunate, as a retired person, had the time and the help from younger family members, to be able to get to grips with these video platforms, but some new Councillors might not have any idea of how to use these and therefore felt that this needed to be high up on the agenda for training needs.


Referring to the previous induction sessions, Councillor Dowling, as a councillor elected in 2019, had found those initial meetings very useful.  She picked up on the point that Councillor Hambidge had raised and for all those who had been elected mid-term and that big chunk that was missed due to Covid, had been difficult for many trying to keep in touch and finding out what was going on and as Councillor Monument mentioned with Zoom and Teams, there had been many time where she had difficulty  trying to log on without success but she was confident that such glitches would be sorted going forward.


The Chairman said that this would be where the suggestion of mentoring would be very useful.


Councillor Birt raised two points.  Firstly, the report mentioned the association with NALC and the claim was to get a wider pool of candidates but he was slightly sceptical about this but agreed about not duplicating work but felt that the Council would be addressing a fairly narrow pool of potential candidates and perhaps needed to look wider for people not associated with NALC and felt that schools should be involved or clubs and societies in the local area or even providing information to village halls.  


Councillor James apologised if this information had not been conveyed properly, the Council was looking to utilise NALC for what they were already doing but the Council’s own communication methods would also be used.  It would be a multichannel process.


Councillor Birt referred to page 32 of the Agenda pack in respect of carbon footprint, he realised that this Council had a very long way to go but was pleased to see this mentioned in the report that the Democratic Services Team Leader had included and should be considered as Teams/Zoom was not carbon neutral but were carbon intensive.


The Chairman said that all concerns would be noted.


For reassurance, the Chairman mentioned the on-going IT briefing sessions for current Members, herself, Councillor Bambridge and Councillor James had attended one of these sessions with Officers where a very good lesson on Teams had been very helpful.


The recommendation was proposed and seconded, and it was:


RESOLVED that the suggested ideas to allow Officers to begin preparations of the Member Induction Programme for delivery in May 2023 be approved.

Supporting documents: