To consider the report of the Service Manager Performance and Democratic.
Consideration was given to the report of the Service Manager Performance and Democratic.
At the invitation of the Chair, the Chief Officer Commercial and Customer advised that the Council had already signed up to becoming a diverse Council at its July Meeting and at that time it was agreed that an action plan be developed to support diversity in the democratic process and that the action plan be considered by the Democratic Services Committee, prior to Council approval.
The action plan, attached as an appendix to the report, followed the WLGA format and had incorporated the findings from the work undertaken with 16 – 25 year olds with regard to interaction around democracy. Discussions had also taken place with key officers and equality leads to ensure that the correct connections were made in order that some of the proposed actions could be progressed. It was noted that the action plan set out the intended activity ahead of the 2022 local elections and post elections - there was a longevity to the document and it could be built on and added to as it moved forward.
The Chair of the Democratic Services Committee advised that the report had been welcomed by the Committee but a few points had been raised regarding some of the wording that had been used in terms of the political make up of groups and parachute payments for Members who lost their seats at an election.
The Leader of the Labour Group referred to Item No. 30 contained within the action plan and more specifically the final bullet point, namely “support the Welsh Government’s and IRPW’s commitment to explore Resettlement grants or ‘parachute payments’ for Members who lose their seats at election” and advised that both the Labour Group and Minority Independent Group could not support this proposal.
In reply to a question raised, the Chief Officer confirmed that the action plan was a ‘live’ document and would be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure that the document included any salient and pertinent points over time. The action plan would be monitored through the Democratic Services Committee as part of the forward work programme.
A further discussion ensued regarding the use of the terminology ‘political parties’ within the document and it was requested that this be amended to read ‘political groups’.
The Chief Officer advised that the points raised at Democratic Services Committee regarding terminology had been captured in the covering report. With regard to parachute payments, this was being considered by the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales on a national basis and was currently under discussion across Wales. As there would be further iterations of this proposal, Council could consider this in the future as part of the live review of the action plan.
A Member referred to paragraph 6.1 of the report and in particular, the point that Blaenau Gwent continued to have significantly above average levels of disability with a total of 31.6% of working age people being defined as disabled (EA core or work-limiting disabled) compared to 22.8% for Wales. As Blaenau Gwent had one of the highest rates in this category across Wales, the Member asked whether an action could be incorporated in the plan for the Aspire Team to engage with this group and provide support and assistance into gainful employment.
The Chief Officer Commercial and Customer advised that across the Council work was being undertaken with this cohort to help and provide support, wherever possible. However, in terms of the context of this report, this particular reference related to the support that could be provided to encourage participation in the democratic process.
It was proposed that the terminology ‘political parties’ within the document be amended to read ‘political groups’.
It was unanimously,
RESOLVED, subject to the foregoing amendment, that the report be accepted and Option 2 be endorsed, namely,that the action plan be approved for implementation, subject to the above comments and amendment being noted.