|Date: Monday 6th March 2017 Time: 02.00 p.m. Place: Council Chamber, Civic Centre, Ebbw Vale|
|Present||And||Report to||Report of|
|COUNCILLOR G. COLLIER (CHAIR)|
Apologies for absence were received from:-
Councillors K. Chaplin, Mrs. A. Hobbs, Mrs. J. Morgan, J.P. D. White
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST AND DISPENSATIONS
There were no declarations of interest or dispensations reported.
DEMOCRATIC SERVICES COMMITTEE
The Minutes of the Democratic Services Committee held on 4th October, 2016 were submitted for consideration, whereupon:-
Proposals for the Establishment of Scrutiny Arrangements for the Blaenau Gwent Public Services Board
Councillor J. Morgan joined the meeting at this juncture.
In reply to a question regarding the appointment of the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Audit Committee to the Public Services Board Scrutiny Committee, the Head of Policy and Performance (designated Head of Democratic Services) clarified that membership of the Public Services Board Scrutiny Committee had recently been approved by Council as an interim arrangement until the formation of the new Council in May 2017.
The officer advised that following the local election these arrangements would be reviewed and the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Audit Committee could be included within the membership of the Public Services Board Scrutiny Committee if that was agreed by the new Council.
Format and Style of Committee Minutes
A Member referred to the recent discussions that had taken place within the Scrutiny Committees regarding the format and style of Committee minutes and following the intervention of the Deputy Leader of the Council immediately following the Environment, Economy & Infrastructure Scrutiny Committee held on 28th February, 2017 reported that the Temporary Lead Corporate Director/Head of Paid Services had convened a meeting with the leaderships of both political groups to discuss the matter.
The Member continued by advising, however, that the Temporary Lead Corporate Director/Head of Paid Services had provided an assurance that no instruction had been issued to officers regarding the way in which minutes were to be presented Committees - as far as the officer was concerned the minutes should be presented as per the resolution of the Council decision made during May 2016. The Member commented that the minutes should capture the meeting in the fullest fashion as opposed to a truncated version of minutes being presented for consideration.
RESOLVED, subject to the foregoing, that the minutes be accepted as a true record of proceedings.
ANNUAL REPORT OF THE HEAD OF DEMOCRATIC SERVICES
At the invitation of the Chair, the Head of Policy and Performance (designated Head of Democratic Services) spoke to the report and highlighted the salient points contained therein. The officer explained that under the Local Government (Wales) Measure the Head of Democratic Services had a statutory duty to present an annual report which provided an assessment of the arrangements in place to support Elected Members. The report also provided an overview of the current services and support provided to Members, which included:-
â€ž Member Development and Training
In addition, the draft Member Induction Programme 2017 was submitted for consideration. It was noted that in discussion with the two Group Leaderships, participation in the induction programme would be made mandatory. The officer outlined the detail of the Induction Programme and advised that morning and afternoon sessions would be held covering four broad topics areas.
The Head of Policy and Performance (designated Head of Democratic Services) continued by referring to the Market Place Open Day the purpose of which was to provide practical information to Members as soon as possible following the local election. It was noted that a similar event which had been arranged immediately following the 2012 election had received positive feedback. Currently the date of the Open Day was to be confirmed but if agreed by Members would be the first session within the Induction Programme and held on 11th May, 2017. If this date was not agreed the session would be arranged during June.
A discussion ensued regarding the date of the Market Place Open Day. One Member felt that the Open Day should be held later in the month in order to allow new Members the opportunity to settle in whilst other Members were of the view that the session would be beneficial being held following the local election but prior to the formal induction process commencing.
It was, therefore, RESOLVED to recommend that the Market Place Open Day be held on 11th May, 2017.
Option 2 - Risk Implications
A Member in proposing that Option Two be supported referred to the risk implications outlined in Paragraphs 3.1 and 3.2 of the report and sought clarification in terms of the potential risks associated with option two if the levels of support arrangements for Members were deemed by Council not to be sufficient and that there was a potential reputational risk in relation to public perception of additional resource allocation.
The Head of Policy and Performance (designated Head of Democratic Services) advised that as part of the budget setting process feedback had been received from the public relating to the democratic process for example, the number of Elected Members and it had been explained by officers as part of this engagement process that this number was set by national policy. As there was a perception in the public view it was felt it should be referenced within the report, but the officer commented that in doing so there had been no intention to limit the scope of the options contained within the report.
A Member said that one of the key component parts of the Democratic Services Committee was to ensure Members were provided with adequate professional support in order to undertake their duties both as an individual and collectively via the Committee and, therefore, in his opinion there would be no harm in a survey being conducted. It was noted that whatever the outcome of the survey, any identified additional support if required (which would provide Members with the tools to undertake their roles effectively) would be funded from within the same budget. It was noted that the outcome of the survey would be reported back to the Democratic Services Committee and Council for consideration.
Upon a vote being taken it was unanimously,
â€ž that the Democratic Services Committee recommended to Council that the Head of Democratic Services be instructed to undertake a survey of all Members to identify requested additional support. The associated implications and costs to be reported back to the Democratic Services Committee and Council for further consideration (Council would need to indicate the timings if this option was to be agreed i.e. was it to be considered by the new Council); and
â€ž the draft Member Induction Programme be recommended to Council for approval.
Democratic Services Committee - Workload
A Member pointed that the Democratic Services Committee had been established in order to drive the democratic process and expressed his concern that this had been the first meeting held in a period of 5 months. Whilst there was a statutory requirement to hold one Committee per annum a decision had been taken to meet a minimum of 4 times per annum. He questioned whether any work had been undertaken during this period that was relevant to the Democratic Services Committee.
The Head of Policy and Performance (designated Head of Democratic Services) commented that work had been undertaken during this period in relation to the Committee. The officer explained that:-
â€ž Specific work had been undertaken in relation to the Wales Audit Office/scrutiny action plan but due to the pre-election period had been unable to be presented.
â€ž Similarly, the final Independent Remuneration Panel report had recently been received but due to timescales there had been insufficient time to present this information to the Committee.
â€ž In addition, work in relation to the Member Programme had been superseded by the development of the 2017 Induction Programme.
A Member commented that as part of the provision of support for Members the appropriate facilities and infrastructure was required in order that duties could be undertaken in an effective manner.
The Head of Policy and Performance (designated Head of Democratic Services) advised that the Corporate Overview Scrutiny Committee had recently deferred a decision on a Task and Finish Group report relating to ICT provision and workspace arrangements for Members pending the outcome of the local election. The officer referred to the previous report and advised that as part of Option 2, Members would be surveyed to identify additional requirements and this information would be reported back via the democratic process.
Another Member referred to the Task and Finish Group report and pointed out that going forwarded when the report was represented for consideration the impact of the proposals contained therein on the staff within the Democratic & Corporate Support Team should be clearly detailed.