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The Chairman welcomed Members, officers and members of the public to the meeting and explained that the Committee had an important task in considering the proposal from the Governance Working Party on the conclusions of its governance review prior to any final recommendation being presented at the Full Council meeting on 15 January 2020.
She confirmed to all in attendance that whilst she was a member of the Governance Working Party and had been involved in their discussions to date, at this meeting she was here with an open mind to act as Chairman of this Committee to ensure everyone had an opportunity to have their say and come to a view that could be fed back to the Working Party.
She clarified that the Committee’s role at the meeting was to act as a consultee as requested by Full Council on 18 September 2019 and that it would involve Members providing an independent assurance that the review undertaken to date had been adequate to inform fellow councillors ahead of their decision making on the issue.
The Committee’s views would be fed back to the Governance Working Party at its next meeting on 6 January 2020.
Declarations of Interest
Members and Officers are reminded to make any declarations of pecuniary, personal and/or prejudicial interests that they may have in relation to items on this agenda and are reminded that they should re-declare their interest before consideration of the item or as soon as the interest becomes apparent.
Members and officer should make their declaration by stating :
a) the application they have the interest in
b) whether it is a pecuniary, personal and/or prejudicial
c) the nature of the interest
d) if it is a prejudicial or pecuniary interest, whether they will be exercising their right to speak to the application
No declarations of interest were made.
To approve as a correct record of the Minutes of the meeting of the Audit & Governance Committee held on 21 November 2019.
The minutes of the meeting held on 21 November 2019 were approved by the Committee as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
As agreed at the Council meeting on 18 September 2019, this report forms the consultation that the Governance Working Party wishes to take with the Audit & Governance Committee before making any recommendations from its review of the Council’s governance arrangements.
The Committee is being asked to consider the options that the Governance Working Party are considering presenting to Full Council on 15 January 2020.
The Monitoring Officer referred the Committee to the report before them and highlighted the importance of the review process that they had been asked to undertake. In addition to the report and background documents, the Monitoring Officer referred to the additional document, circulated separately to the agenda, which had provided an analysis of each governance option and costings for any potential change. She then explained that the next stage in the process required this Committee to consider if the review had been sufficiently robust.
The observations made by Members in considering the report are summarised below;
§ As the Constitution would require updating based on an implemented change to a Committee system, Members were keen to establish if there would be sufficient time to ensure that these changes could be made against the timeline of April/May 2020. The Monitoring Officer explained that the Working Party had accepted that there would not be any changes to individual Councillor or Officer delegation and on that basis, she believed that she would be able to conclude the update on the key parts of the Constitution. However, there would be more work required to be completed throughout the rest of the constitution and that was why in the strategic targets there was £10,000 allocated for consultee help and support to get this work done.
§ Several concerns were raised over the budget costings in the additional report. The Monitoring Officer advised Members that these had been based on what could be quantified at this stage in the review process.
§ Significant concern was raised in relation to Working Party not having taken the opportunity to meet with another Council who had implemented a governance change. It was felt this was a missed opportunity.
§ A question was asked regarding the lack of consultation with former Cabinet Members by the Working Party as it was felt that these Members would be able to provide key advice and information based on their experience of how a Cabinet system worked in practice. It was explained that all Members of the Council and the Senior Management Team had been sent a questionnaire to complete and of the 54 councillors only 30 responses were received. It was confirmed that the Working Party did include two former Cabinet Members, however, they had not been asked to provide their experience of a Cabinet system. A request was made for previous Cabinet Members to be invited to inform the review. The Committee was advised that this would need to be agreed by the Chairman of the Working Party and the Monitoring Officer agreed to raise this with him.
The Chairman asked the Committee if they would be happy to hear comments from Members who were in attendance in the Public Gallery. Councillors Bower, Edwards, Dixon, Chapman, Roberts, Gunner, Coster and Cooper were all then invited to speak. Comments made were:
· This review was being undertaken by a new Council with a large number of newer Members who have little or no experience ... view the full minutes text for item 351.