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DEMOCRATIC SERVICES COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 18th October, 2017.

 

Present:  N.P. Hodges (Chairman); Councillor S.J. Griffiths (Vice-Chairman); Councillors G.D.D. Carroll, O. Griffiths, K.F. McCaffer, N. Moore, M.J.G. Morgan and N.C. Thomas.

 

 

389            APOLOGY FOR ABSENCE -

 

This was received from Councillor L.O. Rowlands.

 

 

390            MINUTES -

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 26th July, 2017 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

391            DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

392            MEMBER INDUCTION/MEMBER DEVELOPMENT 2017 (HDS) -

 

Cabinet on 18th January, 2017 approved the Induction Programme for newly-elected and returning Councillors following the local government elections in May, 2017 and further approved the designation of the "Mandatory Induction" elements of the Programme, together with the requirement on relevant Members as identified to attend.

 

The work of an elected Member was complicated and challenging and the political, legislative and local landscape in which they worked was changing constantly.  Local communities quite rightly had high expectations of their elected representatives from the day of their election and throughout their period of office.  It was essential, therefore, that elected Members were assisted effectively in preparing to be able to quickly and successfully navigate the numerous different aspects of local government.  It was also important to stress the importance of the ongoing commitment of Members to participate in development opportunities beyond the current Programme as they bedded into their new roles internally and externally to the Council.

 

A detailed report had been submitted to the previous meeting, setting out the considerable amount of work undertaken, both prior to, and since, the May 2017 election

 

Member training and development was required by the Local Government Act 2000, Local Government Measure (Wales) 2011 and the Council's Member Development Strategy. Both the initial Member Induction Programme and the ongoing Member Development Programme, in addition to their obvious importance for Members generally, were being, and would continue to be, delivered against the background of the Well-being Goals within the Well-being of Future Generations Act (Wales):

 

The Council as an organisation viewed its Member Induction and ongoing Member Development Programme as extremely important for Members.

 

"The Member Induction and Development Programmes"

 

The overall Member Induction and Development Programme incorporated 26 training topics.  44 sessions had, or would have, taken place by the end of October. Out of the 44 sessions held or arranged to date, 14 (32%) had been day time sessions (between 09.00 and 16.00). and 30 (68%) had been evening sessions (16.00 - 21.00).

 

12 of the currently scheduled 24 training topics had been labelled as mandatory, equating to 50% of the Programme.  To maximise attendance and being sympathetic to Members’ personal commitments, mop-up sessions had been arranged on a 1:1 or small group basis; this process was continuing.  Out of the 12 Mandatory topics, 7 (58%) had been completed with 5 (42%) requiring a further mop-up session. The 12 mandatory topics had been delivered over 24 scheduled sessions, with a maximum expected attendance level of 347 places.

 

Out of the 347 expected attendance places, 304 had been filled to date, giving an 88% overall attendance rate for mandatory sessions.  The largest amount of individuals still left to attend a mop-up session was 23 for the Corporate Parenting & Safeguarding topic and the lowest being 7 for both the Equality & Welsh Language topic and the General Chairing Skills topic.  Democratic Services staff were currently in the process of arranging the relevant mop-up sessions.

 

Feedback had been sought from Members, following each session, using the online survey tool Survey Monkey.  Feedback to date had been largely positive and would be analysed to inform future development and delivery needs.

 

21 (88%) of the topics had been facilitated by Vale of Glamorgan Officers, with three (12%) being delivered by an external facilitator; from the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA).

 

Further statistical information was contained in Appendix A to the report.

 

The ongoing Programme would continue to largely be delivered in-house and would comprise a mix of delivery methods, including access to e-learning (for example, utilising the All-Wales Academy training material, now hosted on the National Health Service portal).  The E-learning resources were now available on MemberNet, under the newly created 'Member Development Training Sessions and Resource Material' webpage.  The "How To Guides" developed pre and post-induction Programme were also available via Member desktops as a resource tool, including important links to other relevant websites.

 

In addition to any reports to the Democratic Services Committee and Cabinet as appropriate, the Council's (Officer) Insight Board would be kept updated regarding the ongoing Member Development Programme.

 

At the meeting, Members concurred that the programme had been comprehensive and very beneficial.  Members complimented the officers on the amount of work which had been undertaken in order to deliver the ongoing programme and asked that their appreciation be passed on accordingly. 

 

The Head of Democratic Services asked whether any of the Members present had participated in the visit to the Council’s Contact Centre.  A number of Members had done so and all had found it to be an extremely informative and beneficial visit.  Again, Members asked that their appreciation be passed on to the staff concerned. 

 

RESOLVED -

 

(1)       T H A T the work undertaken by the Democratic and Scrutiny Services Section in relation to Member Induction and the ongoing Member Development Programme and associated activities be noted and the Committee’s appreciation be passed on to the staff, given the considerable amount of work undertaken and which the Committee wished to acknowledge.

 

(2)       T H A T the Head of Democratic Services convey the Committee’s appreciation to the staff who had facilitated the opportunity for Members to visit the Council’s Contact Centre.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1&2)  To ensure Members are aware of how the training/development will assist them in their elected role and wider running of the Council and to convey Members’ appreciation to staff involved in delivering the programme.

 

 

393            MEMBER PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT INTERVIEWS (HDS) -

 

The Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 contained a requirement that Local Authorities had in place a facility whereby Members were offered the opportunity to have their training and development needs reviewed on an annual basis.  This requirement was accompanied by a provision that an opportunity existed for Members to have a pre-planned interview with a 'suitable qualified person'. 

 

All Members would be afforded the opportunity of an interview.  The Council's Member Development strategy stated that "On an annual basis, the Head of Democratic Services will afford all Members the opportunity of having a Personal Development Interview. As far as Members in receipt of a Senior Salary are concerned, there will be an expectation on them to have such an interview."

 

Interviews would be conducted by the Head of Democratic Services and, if the level of take up was particularly high, the Principal Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer.  The process would have regard to the various Member Role Descriptions, which were contained in the Council's Constitution.  Furthermore, it would contribute to Personal Development Plans which, in turn, would then be used to inform the Council's ongoing Member Development Programme. 

 

The Head of Democratic Services indicated he would forward for Members of the Committee to consider a copy of the interview template used to date.  Members’ comments regarding its format were welcomed and would be taken into account as part of the current year’s process. 

 

RESOLVED - T H A T all Members be afforded the opportunity of a Personal Development Interview, with it being a requirement for all Members in receipt of a Senior Salary.

 

Reason for decision

 

To comply with the provisions of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011.

 

 

394            MEMBERS’ ANNUAL REPORT (HDS) -

 

The Committee was asked to consider whether the current template remained "fit for purpose" or whether any amendments to the template should be made.  The current format reflected guidance issued by the Welsh Government at the time the requirement relating to Annual Reports first came into being.

 

Whilst the Measure required the Council to make this facility available to Members, there was no obligation on individuals to produce an Annual Report.  It was also acknowledged that, whilst Annual Reports could be regarded as a means of improving communication between Elected Members and the public, they were only one method of communication open to, and used by, Members.

 

No specific changes to the current template were proposed by the Committee.

 

RESOLVED – That all Members be informed of the facility for them to produce for publication on the Council's website an Annual Report.

 

Reason for decision

 

To facilitate the Council's compliance with the relevant provision of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 ("the Measure").

 

 

395            INDEPENDENT REMUNERATION PANEL FOR WALES (IRPW) DRAFT ANNUAL REPORT 2018/19 (HDS)

 

The IRPW had recently issued its draft Annual Report 2018/19.  The draft report contained several proposed changes to the IRPW’ s Remuneration Framework, including a small increase in the Basic Salary for all Members and some "significant changes" in respect of Town and Community Councils.  The consultation period ended on 29th November, 2017 and the IRPW would then consider any responses submitted from consultees prior to the production of its final Annual Report in February 2018. 

 

In line with its previous approach in the year of a Council Election, representatives of the IRPW had visited all 22 Local Authorities in Wales.  The visits were designed to provide the IRPW with an opportunity to discuss issues with a cross-section of Members and Senior Officers.   A number of Members and Officers met with the Panel when they visited the Council on 5th September, 2017.  In the Foreword to the draft Annual Report, the Chair of the IRPW stated that:

 

"The visits and the resulting discussions assisted in continuing to ensure that we have a comprehensive understanding of the development of the role of the Councillor and the workload pressures that appear to be increasing across the board. 

 

The conclusions from our discussions have wherever possible been incorporated in our determinations and in particular our proposed modest increase in the basic salary. 

 

As a Panel we believe the overwhelming majority of the 1,254 Elected Members of the 22 Councils are committed to serving their communities and put in many hours that the basis remuneration could not cover.  Affordability is an issue for both the Councils and taxpayers and this restricts other than modest additional costs to the total payments to Members.  What we wish to prevent is further erosion of the link with the average Welsh earnings. 

 

Other changes that we are proposing for 2018 are set out in the Report."

 

The full draft Annual Report could be found at http://gov.wales/irpwsub/home/publication-reports/financial-year-2018-19/?lang=en

For ease of reference, the Introduction to the report was attached as Appendix A and the list of draft Panel Determinations for 2018/19 (Annex 1 to the draft Annual Report) was attached at Appendix B. 

 

The draft Panel Determinations included: 

  • a proposed increase of £200 in the Basic Salary to £13,600.  No increase was proposed for Senior Salaries, but all postholders would be entitled to the increase in the Basic Salary element (Determination 1);
  • the removal of the relatively short-lived provision which the Panel introduced in 2016 providing for Local Authorities to pay two levels of salary for Executive Members and Committee Chairmen; 
  • reference to very few Members utilising the provision in the Remuneration Framework to reimburse costs of care;
  • the Panel was of the view that "there are still major issues to be addressed with Community and Town Councils which we will be raising with individual Councils and their representative organisations.  However, as a start to this process we are proposing to introduce grouping Councils according to level of income or expenditure.  We propose that mandatory payments be made to senior Members in those Councils in the highest group." (Determination 45);
  • Determinations 44, 46, 51 and 52 (which related to Town and Community Councils) also included different provisions to those currently applying.

As far as remuneration of care costs was concerned, the draft IRPW Annual Report

provided relevant Authorities with two options:

 

(1) The details of the amounts reimbursed to named Members; or

(2) The total amount reimbursed by the Authority during the year but not attributed to any named Member.

 

It would be a matter for each Authority to decide which of these options for publication it considered appropriate.  The Committee considered that take-up of the provisions might be improved generally if the total of care costs was, indeed, published on a “pooled” basis

 

The Council's Members' Allowances Scheme (as contained in the Constitution) reflected the fact that the Council had resolved to abide by the determinations of the IRPW as set out in its Annual Report each year.

 

RESOLVED -

 

(1)       T H A T the Committee recommend to Council that consideration be given to incorporating in the Council’s Members’ Allowances Scheme provision for the total of any care costs claimed by Members to be published as the total amount reimbursed by the Authority during the year, but not attributed to any named Member.

 

(2)       T H A T a copy of the draft Annual Report be forwarded to Group Leaders, in the event their respective Groups or individual Members wish to submit comments.

 

Reason for decisions

 

(1)       To encourage the take-up of care costs where appropriate.

(2)       To provide the opportunity for the Committee, Political Groups and individual Members to consider the draft IRPW Annual Report and submit any comments.

 

 

396            ICT UPDATE FOR MEMBERS (MD) -

 

All Members had been provided with ICT equipment and associated training, which was designed to enable them to carry out their duties effectively and efficiently over the forthcoming 5 years.

 

The ICT Service was now experiencing very little demand from Members in terms of support requirements, over and above providing the “business as usual” support service. This was considered a testament to the planning that had gone in to the specification of the equipment and the organised manner in which the equipment was disseminated.  Refresher ICT training would continue to available for Members on request.

 

Both Members and officers were governed by policy in terms of how ICT equipment provided by the Council could be used, to ensure no ICT security vulnerabilities were introduced to the Council’s computer network and that any personal data used to perform their respective functions was managed and processed securely and for the purpose it was originally gathered.

 

As a Vale of Glamorgan ICT user it was crucial that the Council had Members' responses to the ICT Code of Conduct so, as an organisation, the Council could ensure that all users were educated in the remit of the code and operate safely and professionally within the Council's network.

 

It was decided that the quickest and most cost effective method of retrieving responses was by activating an electronic meta-compliance policy and all 47 Members had now agreed to terms of the ICT Code of Conduct, with:. 

  • almost 50% having responded within the first week
  • 39 (82.98%) of the 47 Members having responded electronically.
  • 8 Members (17.02%) that had not responded to the electronic meta-compliance message having been sent a paper copy of the ICT Code of Conduct and a covering letter requesting their response.

The Council’s third Print Strategy proposal would be put before Cabinet on 23rd October, to seek approval to let a tender for the supply of a corporate managed print service before the end of March 2018, which was when the current contract expired.

 

The Print Strategy would help facilitate a further reduction in the requirement to print hard copy documents across the Council.  Elected Members were already leading by example in this respect, in that a number were using their Council-provided ICT equipment to view electronic versions of Committee agendas, minutes and reports; rather than receive any in paper format.  Reference was made to the concept of a ”paper-lite” (rather than literally “paperless”) approach in terms of terminology used elsewhere to describe an approach such as the Council was progressing and encouraging.

 

As previously reported, the ICT Service restructure was completed on 1st June 2017. Following this process, ten posts on the new structure remained vacant. The recruitment process was progressing well, with a number of appointments having already been made, and with a number of interviews arranged for the near future. It was anticipated, therefore, that the new ICT Service structure would be fully populated before the end of December 2017.

 

The Committee accepted an offer made by the Operational Manager (ICT) to facilitate a short ICT “Question and Answer” session at the conclusion of the next meeting

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the report be noted and the Committee’s appreciation of the work undertaken by the ICT staff be placed on record.

 

Reason for decision

 

To ensure Members are made aware of any developments to their ICT service to the wider Council and to acknowledge the work undertaken by the ICT staff.

 

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