Agenda item

Constitution Working Party - 17 and 24 August 2020

The Chairman, Councillor Mrs Yeates, will present the Minutes from the meeting of the Constitution Working Party held on 17 August 2020.  There are no recommendations.  However, there are a series of recommendations to consider as set out in the minutes from the second part of the meeting deferred to 24 August 2020. 


Attached is the covering report from the Chief Executive for information purposes.  The extracts from the Constitution listed below and discussed at this meeting and the meeting held on 24 August 2020 will form a separate pack and will be circulated separately to this agenda


·         Part 1 – Summary and Explanation

·         Part 2 – Articles of the Constitution

·         Part 3 – Responsibility for Functions

·         Part 4 – Officer Scheme of Delegation; and

·         Part 5 – Meeting Procedure Rules  



            The Chairman, Councillor Mrs Yeates, presented the Minutes from the meetings of the Constitution Working Party held on 17 and 24 August 2020. 


            Councillor Mrs Yeates explained that the Constitution Working Party was reporting back to Full Council on the progress of the work to date in implementing the new governance arrangements.  The minutes from the meeting held on 24 August 2020, contained a list of recommendations relating to Parts 1 to 5 of the Constitution. The background papers showing the replacement sections for Parts 1 to 5 of the Constitution had been uploaded to the Full Council website on 9 and 15 September 2020.


            Councillor Mrs Yeates confirmed that there was a slight error in the minutes from the meeting of 24 August 2020 at Recommendation (4) in that the Service Committee set out in the third bullet point should read the Environment and Neighbourhood Services Committee and not the Environment and Wellbeing Service Committee.  It was outlined that Parts 6 to 8 would be considered by the Working Party at its next meeting.


            Councillor Mrs Yeates then provided a summary and brief overview of the work undertaken by the Working Party on 17 and 24 August 2020 to assist Members in considering the list of recommendations before them.  A summary of the verbal report made has been set out below:


·         Part 1 – Summary and Explanation – It was explained that a glossary of terms had been drawn up which would be updated as necessary when Parts 6 to 8 of the Constitution were reviewed.

·         Part 2 [Articles of the Constitution], any references to the Cabinet system had been removed and consequential changes made.  At the heart of the Committee system was Article 11 where at Paragraph 3 four types of decision making had been identified being:



(a)          Decisions reserved to Full Council

(b)         Decisions made by Committees appointed by the Full Council

(c)          Decisions made by Sub-Committees appointed either by the Full Council or a Committee

(d)          Decisions made by Officers


·         Part 3 of the Constitution [Responsibility for Functions].  Under the Committee system, little change had been made to Full Council.  Looking at Committees, the new Constitution functions not reserved by Full Council would be delegated to the six Service Committees and no longer to Cabinet.  This section of the Constitution identified the six Service Committees and the four Regulatory Committees.  The role and remit of each of the Service Committees had been fully investigated and debated by the Working Party and the minutes had clearly detailed the key issues detailed below:

·           property matters - property and asset management.  Following full debate, the Working Party had proposed that Asset Management Strategy and the Property Investment Strategy be the responsibility of the Economic Committee.  It had then been suggested that the rational for the division of functions was that the Corporate Committee would be responsible for operational properties and that commercial properties would be the responsibility of the Economic Committee.  An enquiry into how this would work has been commissioned by the Working Party and so this part of the review would be considered by the Working Party and therefore Full Council at a later date.

·           Development Control and Planning – It was agreed that any review relating to Development Control and Planning would be delayed until the outcome of the Planning review had been received.

·           Role and remit of the other Regulatory Committees – these were already in operation under the current form of governance.

·           Sub-Committees, Working Parties and Panels – Sub-Committees could be established by Committees or by Full Council.  For the existing two Regeneration Sub-Committees [which would be disbanded under the new system] it was agreed that should the Economic Committee wish to create Regeneration Sub-Committees, these would be established reporting directly into this Committee.

·           Financial thresholds to Committees – strong views had been expressed about the level of thresholds

·         At Part 4 - Chief Executive Delegation – a request had been made to add a new paragraph stipulating that the Chief Executive should not be able to grant a leave of absence for a Councillor and that this matter should be for Full Council to consider with the Chief Executive not being able to make such a decision under emergency action.

·         Part 4 – Officer Scheme of Delegation – It was brought to Members’ attention that Part 4, Section 2, Paragraph 3 onwards was the responsibility of the Chief Executive to draft and so was not within the remit of the Working Party and therefore not a decision for Full Council to make when the Constitution was adopted in May 2021.

·         Part 4 – Officer Scheme of Delegation – Section 2 - Chief Executive and Directors – Urgent Decisions – for those decisions that needed to be made in between Committee or Full Council meetings, it was proposed to limit the urgent decision making threshold to £100k and to add that this had to be in consultation with Group Leaders or Deputy Group Leaders.

·         Part 5 – Meeting Procedure Rules – all reference to Cabinet Procedure Rules had been deleted. 

·         The Public Speaking Rules for the Development Control Committee had been removed from this section with its principles incorporated into a proposed new Planning Protocol, as this would reflect good practice, but would be presented to the Working Party at a future meeting once the Planning Review had been completed.

·         Virtual Meeting Procedure Rules had not been considered at this stage of the review as the legislation currently only provided for remote meetings to 6 May 2021.  If further legislation was introduced by the Government to extend these provisions or to introduce other arrangements such as a ‘hybrid’ model, then these Meeting Procedure Rules would be revised at that time.

·         Points of Order – wording had been added to provide Councillors wishing to raise a Point of Order reasonable time to indicate the Procedure Rule in question.

·         Public Question Time – suggestions to change the current rulings in place for Public Question Time were not agreed.  It was also agreed to limit Pubic Question Time to Full Council and Service Committees only.

·         Referral and Recovery – it was explained that as the Council had chosen not to establish a Scrutiny Committee as part of the new structure, Officers had been requested to draft a referral and recovery option.  This proposal had been accepted by the Working Party, subject to increasing the trigger number to 28 Councillors for both recovery and referral.


            Councillor Mrs Yeates then formally proposed the recommendations which were then seconded by Councillor Mrs Gregory.


            The Chairman then invited debate on the recommendations.  The debate saw concerns being raised over the potential cost to the Council and its ratepayers from moving from a Cabinet form of governance back to a Committee system.  It was felt that this was not a wise use of money.  Concern was also expressed over the speed of decision making under the new structure; the delegation to officers; the lack of scrutiny and the quorum for meetings.  Under the proposals, this meant that just four Councillors could make key decisions without the opportunity for other Councillors to scrutinise such decisions as the existing Overview Select Committee would be abolished.  Concerns were also raised over the need to address structure of the Council which needed to change to fit with the new Committee system and the new Constitution.  Comments were made that the review of the Constitution had been rushed to meet an unrealistic deadline and so some Councillors stated that they needed more time to address these key issues. 


            A specific concern was raised in relation to the functions delegated to the Joint Area Committees as the South Downs National Park and other key organisations such as Southern Water and National Growers were not members of these Committees.  The point argued was how could the delegated functions listed at (a), (b) and (d) be undertaken without these key players forming membership of these Committees when these functions were partly their responsibility. In view of these concerns, Councillor Bower, who had raised this issue, formally proposed that the delegation of functions for the Joint Area Committees be re-examined by the Constitution Working Party.    This proposal was then seconded by Councillor Gunner.


            Before inviting Councillors to debate this proposal, the Chairman asked the Chief Executive for his input.  The Chief Executive confirmed that the delegation of functions for the Joint Area Committees had not changed and were as set out in the current Constitution.  


            A question was asked if Councillors would have the opportunity to review all aspects of the new Constitution before it became final and operating from May 2021. It was explained that as many of the remaining sections of the Constitution would be considered by the Working Party in October so that recommendations could be considered by Full Council at its next meeting on 11 November 2020.  


            More clarification was sought in relation to the delegated functions of the Joint Area Committees and whether Article 11 of the Constitution could be reviewed again by the Working Party.  Following a lengthy debate, it was agreed that the Articles relating to Joint Area Committees and their associated delegated functions be reviewed further by the Working Party.  In recognition of this, it was agreed to withdraw Recommendation (2) set out in the minutes as the Articles would be reviewed further.


            Debate on the remaining recommendations continued and the Working Party was thanked for its hard work and long hours of deliberation. This illustrated how thoroughly all Sections of the Constitution had been reviewed.  Concern was expressed over the decision made to abolish the scrutiny function of the Council, despite this decision having been made back in January 2020.  It was pointed out that active scrutiny would still take place at Full Council and by each of the Service Committees.  The delegated powers given to Officers was a concern and the point was made as to whether each of the Service Committees could take charge of this issue.


            It had been disappointing for some Members to learn that the Working Party had decided not to make further adaptations to Public Question Time as it was felt that the 15 minutes allocated should be extended to 30 minutes. It had also been hoped that Public Question Time would be extended to include all Sub-Committees and questions were asked as to the future of the two existing Regeneration Sub-Committees.


            Debate again focused about scrutiny and the keenness of some Members to have Public Question Time extended to a time period of 30 minutes. It was pointed out that any of the six Service Committees could establish their own Sub-Committees and that the Economic Committee would be investigating very early on the possibility of setting up four Regeneration Sub-Committees. To address the concerns raised over scrutiny, the new Council Procedure Rule 18 Referral and Recovery introduced a new process to allow a scrutiny function to take place. This had been significantly discussed by the Working Party as to whether it was necessary or not.  After much deliberation, the Working Party decided to retain this as it provided an opportunity for Scrutiny.


            Councillor Mrs Gregory, as seconder to the recommendations, urged Members to approve the recommendations as they more than adequately set out how Committees would operate in the future.


            Councillor Mrs Yeates, as proposer of the recommendations, was satisfied that most issues raised by Councillors had been addressed.


            The Council


                        RESOLVED – That


(1)          The proposed revisions to be incorporated into the new 2021 Constitution at Part 1 [Summary and Explanation] at Appendix 1 be approved;


(2)          The proposed revisions to be incorporated into the new Constitution at Part 3 [Responsibility for Functions] as set out in Appendix 3 be approved;


(3)          As a result of the changes proposed in (3) above, and provided these are approved, the minor changes being suggested to the Service Committees, as set out in Appendix 4] as shown highlighted in grey relating to the areas set out below, be approved:


Corporate Policy and Performance

o   Under service areas to include the wording after Partnership and Liaison [excluding where this falls within other Service Committees]

o   To lead on@ to include Climate Change Strategy


                        Residential and Wellbeing Services to not lead on:

o   Foreshores


                        Environment and Neighbourhood Services to lead on:

o   Foreshores


                        Economic – to have included as a service area:

o   Commercial Activities


(4)          The proposed revisions to be incorporated into the new 2021 Constitution at Part 4 [Officer Scheme of Delegation] as set out in Appendix 5;


(5)          The proposed revisions to be incorporated into the new 2021 Constitution at Part 5 [Meeting Procedure Rules] as set out in Appendix 6; and


(6)          To comply with the binding decisions already taken by the Council to change its form of governance, these revisions to take effect from the Annual Council Meeting on 19 May 2021.



Supporting documents: