The Chairman, Councillor Mrs Yeates reminded Councillors of where the last meeting of Full Council [18 November 2020] had ended which was at the conclusion of the amendment put forward by Councillor Roberts in relation to Recommendation (2) at Minute 19 [Proposed Constitutional Changes – Update of Standing Orders Relating to Financial Procedure Rules].
Debate returned to the substantive recommendations (1) and (2).
Looking at Recommendation (1) some concerns were expressed over the financial controls of the Council in terms of how this would work under the new Committee structure. Currently, either a Cabinet Member or Group Head had authority to make budgetary decisions. The concern was that each of the new Service Committees would have the authority to make expenditure decisions to the sum of £100k and would also be able to take a similar sum from its reserves. Questions were asked in terms of how this could be permissible and how could the Council approve a Budget that could then be changed if each Service Committee could make decisions to money from reserves and allow virements to occur outside of the budgetary process.
The Locum Lawyer responded stating that the way that the new 2021 Constitution was written allowed for the Budget and Policy Framework to be decided by Full Council. When the Budget was being prepared the Corporate Policy and Performance Committee (CPPC) would consult the Service Committees and so that it could then make recommendations to Full Council in terms determining the Council’s Budget. Each Service Committee would not be able to spend over and above its threshold.
Despite receiving this explanation there were still concern that the concerns raised had not been answered in terms of protecting the Council’s reserves and the ability of each Service Committee to be able to draw from the Council’s reserves. It was also felt that the wording in this section proposed for the new Constitution was not clear.
Following lengthy debate, it was agreed that this item [Minute 19] would be deferred and considered again at the next meeting of the Constitution Working Party.
Councillor Mrs Yeates then presented the next set of recommendations at Minute 20 [Proposed Constitutional Update of Standing Orders Relating to Financial Procedure Rules] which she formally proposed. The recommendations were then seconded by Councillor Mrs Gregory.
RESOLVED – That
(1) The proposed changes to the Constitution at Part 6 – Procedure Rules (Other) Section 6, Purchasing, Procurement Contracts and Disposals be approved; and
(2) The Monitoring Officer be authorised to make any further consequential changes to the Constitution.
Councillor Mrs Yeates then proposed the recommendations set out in Minute 22 [Draft 2021 Constitution – Parts 6, 7, 8 and 9] which were seconded by Councillor Mrs Gregory.
RESOLVED – That
(1) The proposed revisions to be incorporated into the new 2021 Constitution at Part 6, Section 1 [Access to Information Procedure Rules] be approved;
(2) The proposed revisions to be incorporated into the new 2021 Constitution at Part 6, Section 5 [Officer Employment Procedure Rules] be approved;
(3) The proposed revisions to be incorporated into the new 2021 Constitution at Part 8, Section 3 [Protocol on Member and Officer Relations] be approved;
(4) The proposed revisions to be incorporated into the new 2021 Constitution at Part 8, Section 5 [Petitions Scheme] be approved; and
(5) The proposed revisions to be incorporated into the new 2021 Constitution at Part 8, Section 6 [Filming and Photographic Protocol] be approved;
Councillor Mrs Yeates then alerted Members to the next set of recommendations at Minute 23 [Part 2 – Articles of the Constitution- Joint Arun Area Committees] which she duly proposed. The recommendations were then seconded by Councillor Mrs Gregory.
RESOLVED – That
(1) Part 3 of the Constitution [Responsibility for Functions at 11.0 – Joint Arun Area Committees be amended to remove the functions listed for Joint Arun Area Committees; and
(2) In view of Recommendation (1) above, that Part 2 – Articles of the Constitution, as presented to Full Council on 16 September 2020 be approved.
Councillor Mrs Yeates then formally presented the next set of recommendations at Minute 25 [Changes to Public Question Time [for the Remainder of this Municipal Year] which she formally proposed. The two recommendations were then seconded by Councillor Mrs Gregory.
There was much debate on these recommendations with some Councillors expressing their view that this appeared to be a ‘knee-jerk’ response following Public Question Time at the September 2020 Full Council meeting. It was accepted that there had been a lot of questions submitted from one member of the public, yet these had added value. The recommendations proposed seemed to be introducing a form of censorship which was seen as wrong. Many Councillors felt strongly that Public Question Time should not be restricted in any way and should be encouraged and that the Chairman should have discretion to extend Public Question Time to any appropriate time suitable to that meeting.
In response to the comments made, Councillor Mrs Yeates stated that she would be happy to withdraw the recommendations asking the Constitution Working Party to take a further look at the matter.
This item was then withdrawn.
Councillor Mrs Yeates then alerted Councillors to the final recommendation at Minute 26 [Limit on the Length of Council Meetings [Guillotine] which Councillor Mrs Yeates duly proposed. The recommendation was then seconded by Councillor Mrs Gregory.
Debate on this item saw many views being expressed. Firstly, it was felt that to postpone or adjourn a meeting was already in the power of the Chairman and so questions were asked as to why this was necessary. Other Councillors supported this proposal as it would assist those Councillors working to not have to sit in attendance at meetings that would run into the early hours of the morning. It was felt that in view of the lateness of recent meeting, the guillotine had become a necessary tool. Councillors were also reminded that all Political Group Leaders had been consulted and that there had been widespread support for this across the Council. The guillotine was also very commonly used in other local authorities and so the point was made why this Council could not support introducing the discipline of a fixed time. It was also pointed out that staff welfare also needed to be addressed and the guillotine went some way in assisting with this.
Following Points of Orders raised,
That the Constitution be updated to include applying a limit of 4.5 hours onto the length of meetings for all meetings of the Council unless a majority of Councillors present vote to extend the meeting for a further half an hour at which time the meeting will stand adjourned, apart from the Development Control Committee.