To receive a report from the Director of Law & Governance.
Jeremy Chambers, Director of Law & Governance introduced the report.
1. This report comes to the Committee in advance of the report going to the annual general meeting of full Council. The first part of the report includes changes made by the Monitoring Officer (MO), these are routine matters.
2. The reports also seeks the views of members of the Committee on issues that councillors have asked the MO to consider as part of the review of the Constitution. These requests will be gone through one at a time for feedback.
3. Feedback is requested from members of the committee, there does not need to be a uniform or majority view.
4. The minor amendments made by the MO during the year include; a removal of a contradiction to the appointment of the Chair & Vice Chair of the Scrutiny Panels; reference to a Super Part 2 has been removed, a number of typos have been removed and amended references to the Associate Cabinet Members (ACM) to include the fourth ACM that was created at Council July 2020 including the remit of this ACM.
Comments and views of the Committee relating to the Councillor Conduct Committee items:
· Items 13 and 14 as detailed in the report relate to the Councillor Conduct Committee (CCC). Item 13 when a compliant is received by the MO via the protocol for officer/member relations, there is currently a lack of clarity whether a conduct complaint form is completed. If a member of the public or another councillor complained, they are required to complete a form. However, if a complaint is referred by the Chief Executive following consideration under the protocol that covers relations between officers and members it does not state that a form must be completed. The MO’s view is that this is correct as felt that it is not appropriate that an employee having been through a process already should have to go through another process, when all the information needed is already held. This could however be completed.
· Item 14 details a request to increase membership of CCC. This is not currently politically balanced and is made up of 2 members of the administration and 2 members of the majority opposition party.
· Councillor Smith advised that he has spoken to Councillor Vince who would like to opt for a formal process where an officer who complains about a member completes a form. Councillor Smith supports this view and said that none of the changes have gone to group, so members have not had a chance to discuss collectively. The MO confirmed for clarity on item 13 that this is a formal process the only difference is the completion of a form. In relation to the groups between now and full Council this report will be taken with the feedback from this meeting to informal Cabinet and both Shadow Cabinets for their views.
· Councillor Leaver said that increasing the membership to 6 disproportionally represents Community First. This would be half or two fifths depending on make up of their group can sit in on the judgement of other members, felt that this was not the intention of it. When there were only 2 groups, having 2 of each was the politic way of dealing. Felt that a degree of proportionality should be introduced as opposed to allowing 6 members.
· Councillor Stewart said that on the issue of the complaining officer completing a form this could be helpful. This would provide the officer with protection, if they completed a form that is structured and allows them to think through properly and record all details. On the matter of numbers on CCC, if 2 members of Community First were to sit on this, would that affect their representation on other bodies and the seats that they have already been allocated? Also, aware that there has been a recent addition to their group so that this need to change. The MO confirmed that Community First are a properly constituted group, not independent councillors. In terms of CCC this is not politically balanced it is excluded from the political balance by the council. If a decision was made as an authority to politically balance the CCC (This is not what was being requested by Community First). The high like hood is that it would be 3 Labour and 1 Conservative. In order to have Community First in a politically balanced sense the CCC would have to be much larger. The personal view of the MO is that the committee constitution should not change.
· Councillor Stewart requested clarification as to whether the constitution could be changed so that CCC is politically balanced as she believed that this had to remain neutral. The MO confirmed that this will be double checked ahead of the council meeting. Councillor Stewart requested clarification that if the seats were to be given to Community First would this reduce their allocation of seats on other committees? The MO confirmed that this would be the case and is required by law.
· Councillor Lemonides requested clarification of what is required for item 13. The MO confirmed that if Council says they would like a complaint form completed when matters are referred to the MO from the employee member protocol. The protocol will be very slightly amended to include the requirement for the form to be completed. Following a query, it was also confirmed the guidance is specific and that all complaints are linked to the code of conduct as per the terms of reference, and that all complaints are dealt with as quickly as possible. On item 14 what is being requested is fair representation.
Comments and views of the Committee relating to the Opposition Priority Business
· Items 15 and 16 in the report details the request regarding Opposition Priority Business. There are 6 scheduled Council meetings a year, including the Budget and AGM which do not have opposition priority business on the agenda. The constitution allows the main opposition group to have opposition priority business every other ordinary meeting of the Council. The request from Community First is to be able to submit a topic for opposition business. If the Council were to agree this, it could be dealt with by allowing each opposition group one opposition business per year or there is opposition priority business at every ordinary council meeting and they have 2 per year or keep this is it is and have 2 lots of opposition business on the same agenda or this could be rejected in totality. There is no legal issue, this is a matter for the Council to decide politically.
· Item 16 the constitution currently only allows 2 minutes for the administration to sum up and respond. The leader of the opposition is allowed 5 minutes to conclude. The MO’s view is that the time should be 5 minutes for the administration.
· Councillor Claire Stewart queried what the rules are, if the main opposition tables business are they not allowed to table that same business in a set period of time and if that is the case would that be the same for the minority opposition or would they be able to bring up the same topic. If the council were minded to allow Community First the same opportunities as the Conservative group, it would be necessary to include a provision that you cannot have the same opposition as a subject matter. It was confirmed that opposition priority business can be repeated, currently the same opposition business could be submitted twice a year.
· Councillor Smith commented that the Conservative group is likely to object if the number of opposition businesses allowed by the them is reduced.
Comments and views of the Committee relating to Council Meeting Timings - Clarification
· Item 17 details timings there is model timings in the constitution when there is opposition business. However, there are no model timings if there is no opposition business.
· Councillor Smith said that he has no objection to the timings but has concern that the agendas are changed on the night. The consequence of this is that reports are guillotined on the night, felt that the whips should get together to agree timings and stick to these timings. Councillor Stewart responded that the whips can agree on some things, but the agenda is in the hands of the majority party as they were elected to run the council.
Comments and views of the Committee relating to Questions at Council Meetings
Comments and views of the Committee relating to Environment Forum
Comments and views of the Committee relating to Environment Forum- Referral Process arrangements (Planning Applications)
Comments and views of the Committee relating to Licensing Committee
Comments and views of the Committee relating to Pension Policy & Investment Committee (PPIC)
· This request has come from the Pension Policy & Investment Committee and is a best practice recommendation detailed in items 24 and 25.
· Councillor Smith commented that the independent member on there already is useful and knowledgeable. He has no view on adding to the number but would not want to lose the independent member there already. Fay Hammond confirmed that the person referred to is a specialist advisor role.
· Councillor Leaver confirmed that the existing role is a specialist investment advisor. This role will continue but not necessarily with the same person. The other 2 positions are appropriate, Enfield seems to be different from other authorities in that there is no employee representation on the PPIC. The other aspect is because this is not simply being the local authority pension fund but having legacy organisations involved looking to get one of the contributing organisations part of it. Both of these roles will be non-voting, this is from a governance and a direct relationship with the people funding and the beneficiaries. This is consistent with other authorities.
· Councillor Stewart queried with regards to the union reference is Unison the only recognised trade union at Enfield Council or is GMB recognised. If there are both recognised how would they be chosen? The MO confirmed that Unison are not the only recognised trade union. The MO agreed to take away and look at how other council’s with more than one trade union have dealt with this and ensure that this is clear in the Council report.
Comments and views of the Committee relating to Staff Appeals, Appointments and Remuneration Committee
Comments and views of the Committee relating to Scrutiny procedure rules
· Item 27 details notification of substitutes so that it mirrors every other council meeting.
· Item 28 the council agrees meetings of all committees. At present there is an ability for scrutiny panels to add meetings as they see fit. Currently, if excessive meetings were requested either the Chief Executive or the MO would have to say that the office body of the Council does not have resources to meet requirements and service the meetings. The Scrutiny Panels at present have 4 meetings a year, this would allow for 2 additional meetings should be permitted in a year and they would be agreed in advance with the MO to ensure meetings can be resourced.
· Councillor Bedekova asked if a situation arose necessitating more than 2 meetings due to unforeseen circumstances could a further meeting be arranged. The MO confirmed that this could be done.
Comments and views of the committee relating to Budget Council – Roll Call
· This additional paper detailed the amendment. There is a difference between the law and the constitution. Currently a roll call is very consuming and is not required by the legislation. The MO’s view is that this should be removed, and the legislation applied.
· Councillor Smith and Councillor David-Sanders said as with all amendments this must go to the Shadow Cabinet for a considered view.
AGREED to note the report on Amendments to the Council’s Constitution was discussed.