Suggested Amendments to the Constitution
Report of the Head of Legal & Property Services
The Working Party received a report on a number of suggested changes to the Constitution in relation to the following:
- A minor amendment to the Council scheme of delegation relating to Town and Country Planning and Development Control with regard to Article 4 Directions.
- To agree to changes to the Officer Code of Conduct to reflect the introduction of offences under the Bribery Act 2010.
- The Watford Borough Petition Scheme
- Matters for consideration at Council meetings
- Arrangements for access by councillors to Part B reports
- Access to meetings and papers in respect of Scrutiny Task Groups
- Replacement members on committees
- Councillors’ names in minutes.
- Virement Rules
A minor amendment to the Council scheme of delegation relating to Town and Country Planning and Development Control with regard to Article 4 Directions.
The Working Party AGREED the amendment.
To agree to changes to the Officer Code of Conduct to reflect the introduction of offences under the Bribery Act 2010.
The Working Party AGREED the changes.
The Watford Borough Petition Scheme
A Member commented that he found the current arrangement for dealing with petitions frustrating as the opportunity for debate was limited. He would like to revert to the position of petitions being accepted for discussion at Cabinet or Council by way of the Procedure Rules. The Chair added that whether a petition went to Cabinet or to Council would depend on the subject matter.
Members suggested that it might be useful to get feedback from petitioners
The Working Party AGREED that the Council should revert to the previous position of petitions being accepted for discussion at full Council and Cabinet by way of the Procedure Rules but that the length of the debate be extended to up to 30 minutes and that petitioners be asked for feedback.
Matters for consideration at Council meetings
The Working Party AGREED to keep public petitions at Annual Council and Budget Council because if the provision were removed it would create a large gap between meetings at which they could be presented.
The Working Party AGREED that there should continue to be a Mayor’s Report at Budget Council. Members felt it was important to retain the opportunity to ask questions of the Mayor at all Council meetings (except the Annual meeting
The Working Party AGREED that written Member Questions should continue to be taken at Annual Council.
Arrangements for access by councillors to Part B reports
The Working Party AGREED the following process for dealing with Part B reports:
One hard copy of a Part B report would be sent to each of the Group Leaders asking them to contact the Democratic Services Manager if they required any further copies and stating why they needed them. This would give all Groups an opportunity to see the report whilst still retaining a level of control over distribution.
Access to meetings and papers in respect of Scrutiny Task Groups
When the current scrutiny arrangements were introduced it was determined that scrutiny task groups should be treated in the same way as formal committees with agenda and minutes being published on the web and the meetings open to the public.
One of the problems which occurred following a meeting of the Hospital Parking Charges Task Group at which the press was present was that an inappropriate quote was published in the paper.
The purpose of task groups was to brainstorm ideas and thoughts on a specific topic with a view to making recommendations to the Overview & Scrutiny Committee. If the press and public were present there was always the risk that a comment made as part of the discussion may be taken out of context and presented as a firm proposal. It was also important to encourage a good flow of ideas at Task Groups to ensure that all aspects of the topic were covered and having the press and public present could stifle such debates.
Officers had consulted other local authorities to see what they did with regard to task groups and most responded that they did not treat them as public meetings. All task Group minutes, along with its recommendations, would be made public once they were reported to the Overview & Scrutiny Committee.
A Member said he did not agree with this approach and considered that task group topics were a matter of public interest. He considered that the meetings should be held in public. He added that councillors were public representatives and it was important to demonstrate openness and transparency.
Another Member, however, said she felt that it was important to be able to speak freely at task group meetings and having the press there would stifle debate.
The Chair agreed that there was a need to be more guarded if the press were present. He agreed, however, that task groups did not fit easily with Council Procedure Rules. He suggested seeking the views of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee.
The Working Party AGREED that the question of access to meeting and papers in respect of scrutiny task groups be referred to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee for consideration.
Replacement members on committees
The Working Party AGREED that replacement members should be allowed on all scrutiny committees except where there was an ongoing review and that this arrangement should be included in the Constitution.
Councillors’ names in minutes.
The Working Party AGREED that councillors be referred to by name in minutes with effect from the 2012/13 Municipal Year.
The proposed rules relating to virement were AGREED
- that the suggested changes to the Constitution as agreed by the Working Party be recommended to Council.
- that the issue of access to meetings and papers in respect of scrutiny task groups be referred to the Overview & Scrutiny Committee for consideration.
- Report of Head of Legal & Property Services, item 6. PDF 52 KB
- Appendix A officer code of conduct, item 6. PDF 64 KB
- Appendix B Petition Scheme, item 6. PDF 40 KB
- Appendix C Virement Rules, item 6. PDF 38 KB