Meeting documents

Meeting documents

Constitution Working Party
Wednesday, 30 March 2011 6.00 pm

Constitution Working Party Minutes

Wednesday, 30th March, 2011
6:00 p.m.
Town Hall, Watford

Attendance Details

Cllr A Forrest (Chair), Cllr J Connal, Cllr K Hastrick, Cllr S Johnson, Cllr C Leslie, Cllr A Wylie
Head of Legal & Property Services
Democratic Services Manager
Democratic Services Officer (SH)
Item Description/Resolution
Part A - Open to the Public
CWP6 - 10/11 Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received from Councillor Sharpe.
CWP7 - 10/11 Disclosures of Interest
There were no disclosures of interest.
CWP8 - 10/11 Minutes
The minutes of the meeting held on 31st January 2011 were submitted and signed.
CWP9 - 10/11 Revisd Scrutiny Structure
At the last meeting the Working Party had discussed remuneration and whether the Community Safety Partnership Task Group should be set up formally as a sub committee and if so whether the Chair would attract a payment. It had been resolved that proposals for remuneration be circulated to all political groups for their views and that the proposals, once agreed, be recommended to Council for approval. A summary of the views received had been circulated. There had also been some discussion at the meeting of Cabinet and Scrutiny on 22nd March.

The Head of Legal & Property confirmed that the Community Safety Partnership Task Group had to be part of scrutiny and had to have at least two meetings each year. The question was whether it should remain as a task group or be set up as a formal sub committee.

The Working Party was generally of the opinion that it should be left as it was and that there was no justification for making the Chair a remunerated position. The situation should, however, be reviewed at a later date.

The Working Party also discussed whether the Vice-Chair of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee should receive an allowance. Members generally considered that, as other Vice-Chairs did not receive an allowance, it would not be appropriate to pay an allowance to the Vice-Chair of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee.

A Member raised a general anomaly in the current arrangement whereby a Vice-Chair may have to cover for a long term period but did not receive any remuneration. The Head of Legal & Property Services advised that there were two options in this situation: The Chair could be asked to step down for the period with the Vice-Chair taking over and receiving payment. The other option would be to go to Council and ask for a special payment for the period. This was, however, a separate issue which could be considered at a later date.

The Working Party discussed other options including the possibility of pro-rata payments but agreed that the best course of action was to not pay a vice-chair's remuneration at this stage but review at a later date.

that the following be recommended to Council:

1.The terms of reference and composition of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee and Budget Panel as agreed at the last meeting of the Working Party.

2.The protocol for the involvement of members of the public in the scrutiny process as agreed at the last meeting of the Working Party.

3.The positions of Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and Chair of the Budget Panel to be remunerated at Band 2A.

4.No special responsibility allowance be paid to the Vice-Chair of Overview & Scrutiny Committee but that the situation be reviewed at a later date.

ACTION: Head of Legal & Property Services.
CWP10 - 10/11 Speaking at Development Control Committee Meetings
The Working Party considered a proposal put forward by the Development Management Section Head relating to the late circulation of papers by public speakers at Development Control meetings. Whilst photographs might be acceptable, large amounts of written documentation were not. He was suggesting that any material which a speaker wished to place in front of the committee should be deposited with Democratic Services by 12.00noon on the day of the meeting (the deadline for registering to speak)

One Member, who was also a member of Development Control Committee, considered the proposal to be an-over reaction and registered his objection to the proposal. He added that there were occasions when evidence came to hand quite late and the imposing of a deadline could be prohibitive. He also commented on the limited number of days for notice of applications going to committee and asked whether this could be extended.

Other Members, however, agreed that the late submission of written documentation was unacceptable. A Member also commented that skimming through evidence and then making a judgement could be risky and possibly result in a case for appeal.

With regard to the amount of notice given, the Working Party agreed that this should be extended and that the Chair of Development Control and the Development Management Section Head should be requested to give this matter some consideration. The Head of Legal & Property Services made it clear that, in any event, the agenda would still not be published any earlier than the 5 clear days required by law for publication of agenda.

The Working Party agreed that photographs with a very minimal amount of text were acceptable but that heavy written documents were not. The procedure should be changed to require such documents to be deposited by 12noon on the day of the meeting so that they could be reviewed in advance. Members could be informed by email that the documents had arrived and given the chance to review them ahead of the meeting. The same arrangement would apply to both applicant and objector.

A Member asked what would happen if something vital came to light after the 12.00 deadline but which would have a significant impact on the application. The Head of Legal & Property responded that in such circumstances account would have to be taken of the evidence and the item possibly deferred.

1.that the procedure for public speakers be amended to require written documentation to be submitted by 12.00noon on the day of the meeting

ACTION: Head of Legal & Property Services

2.that the Chair of Development Control Committee and the Development Management Section Head be advised that the current notification period is insufficient and that consideration be given to extending the timescale to allow residents and residents associations more time to formulate their views.

ACTION: Chair of DC/ Development Management Section Head.
CWP11 - 10/11 Start Times of Meetings
Councillors had been invited to comment on the possibility of starting all meetings at 7.0pm. A summary of responses from councillors and officers was attached to the agenda for the Working Party to consider. Nine councillors had responded: Officers were generally in support of the suggestion.

The Working Party expressed concerns about the impact of earlier start times on councillors who worked and also on members of the public who might want to attend.

Members suggested that the public be consulted on revised start times but that in the meantime the existing times be kept in the current programme.

that no change be made to the current start times for meetings in the current programme but that a public consultation exercise be carried out using the Citizen's Panel to seek the views of local residents.

ACTION: Democratic Services
CWP12 - 10/11 Neighbourhood Forums Review
The Working Party had received a copy of the Neighbourhood Forums Review carried out by the Call-in & Performance Committee. Relevant extracts from Policy Development Scrutiny Committee - 15 March and Call-in & Performance Committee - 9th March were tabled at the meeting.

A Member commented that, with regard to meetings, there needed to be a more cohesive approach as other organisations, such as the Housing Trust, also held meetings with the local community. He added that, in some cases, councillors were not aware that these meetings were happening. Holding local meetings was, however, a transparent way of using the funds.

With regard to spending money on projects, he said that the use had to be clear and above board. It was important that it was used for the wider benefit of residents.

Another Member commented that only allowing the funds to be spent on meetings was restrictive. He did, however, agree that there should be tighter safeguards around the spending of money on projects. He suggested that applications went through a similar process as applications for the Mayor's Fund.

Another Member said that she and her fellow ward councillors would object to having to use the funds for meetings as local residents would not attend.

The Head of Legal and Property Services said that, if projects were to be retained, the system would have to be tightened up. New procedures would be drawn up with input from Internal Audit to help protect councillors and ensure accountability.

With regard to the recommendation in the report to change the name to "Community Engagement Fund" (3.1), The Head of Legal and Property Services advised that the terms "neighbourhood forum" and "area committee" referred to the fact that they were based on individual wards. The neighbourhood forum status could then be used to spend money on projects. The fund itself could, however, be named Community Engagement Fund.

The training requirements identified (3.6) would be referred to the Member Development & Civic Officer.

The recommendations relating to inviting officers to attend meetings (3.7) was noted but the point made that, in some cases, more than two weeks' notice might be appropriate.

The Working Party agreed that councillors should be given the opportunity to contribute an update on their meetings/projects to the About Watford magazine (3.8). It also agreed that examples of good practice in use of the funds be included in the Members' Bulletin (3.9)

The Working Party endorsed the recommendations in 3.10 relating to local partners. It was advised that, in respect of 3.11 relating to the website, there may be limitations although the website would eventually be updated.

that, subject to the comments made by the Working Party, the recommendations in the report be endorsed and referred to Council

ACTION: Head of Legal & Property Services
Published on Tuesday, 5th April, 2011
The meeting started at 6.00pm
and finished at 7.45pm


rating button