To receive a report from the Director of Finance, Resources & Customer Services outlining changes to the Council’s Constitution following review of the Council’s political management and member engagement structure agreed at the Annual Council Meeting (11 June 14). (Report No.34)
Councillor Simon moved and Councillor Savva seconded the report from the Director of Finance, Resources and Customer Services (No.34) detailing a number of amendments to the constitution arising from changes to the Council’s political management and member engagement structure agreed at the Annual Council meeting (11 June 2014).
1. The main constitutional changes outlined in the report had been designed to reflect the changes already agreed to the Council’s political management and member engagement structure in relation to:
a. the introduction of a revised delivery model for scrutiny focussed on a single Overview & Scrutiny Committee (OSC) with two standing workstreams established in order to discharge the requirements in relation to health and crime & safety scrutiny and the ability to appoint other workstreams to undertake “task and finish” reviews on priority areas;
b. the replacement of the Area Forum model with a more localised ward based approach towards member engagement; and
c. the introduction of the Associate Cabinet Member (ACM) role
2. The report set out the detailed changes (in tracked version) required to the constitution in order to facilitate the changes outlined in 1. above, as requested by Annual Council (11 June 14). Members had also been supplied with a copy of the proposed amendments in final format, without the tracked changes.
3. The following concerns raised by the Opposition Group in relation to the proposed changes:
a. at what was felt to be the weakening of the Council’s scrutiny function and more limited opportunities available to hold the Executive to account and for wider member engagement and development, which it was felt the new scrutiny structure would result in;
b. the lack of detail provided within the report on the level of quantified savings to be achieved as a result of the new arrangements and loss of experience in relation to the scrutiny officer support arrangements;
c. the lack of detailed cross party and public consultation regarding the proposed changes;
d. the role and cost of the ACM positions, which it was felt:
· closely resembled the constituency roles of the current Members of Parliament in the borough; and
· should be directly accountable to Council rather than Cabinet;
4. In response to the concerns expressed by the Opposition Group members were advised:
a. that the new scrutiny delivery model had been designed to provide a more flexible and focussed approach within the more limited financial and operational resources available. The statutory requirements in relation to health and crime & disorder scrutiny would be maintained but under a more member led and streamlined function. Scrutiny would continue as a cross cutting service but working in a smarter and more efficient way. The new scrutiny structure would continue to be supported and it was felt would give members more time to spend with constituents and in undertaking more in-depth reviews designed to better meet the needs of local residents.
b. in view of the issues raised, specific reference would be included within the Terms of Reference for Overview & Scrutiny Committee to the discharge of not only health but also the crime and disorder scrutiny requirements as set out in the Police & Criminal Justice Act 2006. These areas would be subject to standing workstreams, with all workstreams established on a proportional basis.
c. the proposals had been designed to assist members in developing their representational role by establishing clearer and more focussed mechanisms for listening to and representing local people and ensuring the delivery of more responsive services based around the Council’s strategic objectives.
d. The creation of the Associate Cabinet Member positions had been designed to provide a focal point for co-ordinating member engagement in terms of regeneration and the other strategic objectives and in serving as a link between the locality and Cabinet/Council.
Following a long debate the recommendations in the report were put to the vote, and agreed with the following result:
(1) The constitutional changes to the procedure rules relating to scrutiny be approved, as detailed in Appendix A of the report.
(2) The constitutional changes to the procedures relating to Area Forums be approved, as detailed in Appendix B of the report, in order to reflect the establishment of a more localised ward forum based approach to member engagement.
(3) Reference to the newly created Associate Cabinet Member (ACM) posts be added to the Constitution, as detailed in Appendix C of the report, with Council noting (as detailed in 3.5.4 of the report) that the ACM role would be subject to further detailed consideration by Cabinet, and any additional constitutional changes identified as a result being reported to Council.
(4) Council discharges its powers of scrutiny on such matters designated within the Health and Social Care Act 2012, and the Police and Criminal Justice Act 2006 through the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, who will work closely with the standing work streams in relation to crime and health.
(5) In accordance with Section 9FB of Local Government Act 2000 the current Head of Electoral, Registration and Governance Services be appointed as the Statutory Scrutiny Officer.
(6) Council delegate authority for any further administrative amendments to the constitution, arising from the decisions in 1- 5 above, to be made by the Director of Finance Resources and Customer Services. This to include specific reference within the Overview & Scrutiny Committee Terms of Reference (on the terms detailed in 4. above) to the requirements in relation to scrutiny under the Police & Criminal Justice Act 2006.