The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Cabinet Meeting: 30 November, 2015
Report of the Leader
Public Speaking at Scrutiny Committee Meetings
Purpose of the Report
To enhance the existing arrangements which are in place in terms of the ability of the public to speak at meetings of the Council's Scrutiny Committees.
That the Guide to Public Speaking at Scrutiny Committees ("the Guide"), attached as Appendix A to this report, be endorsed.
That the Guide be submitted to Council for consideration and, if approved, incorporation in the Council's Constitution.
Reasons for the Recommendations
1&2 To enhance the existing arrangements for public speaking at Scrutiny Committees.
The Council recognises that members of the public can make an important contribution to, and be a valuable source of information in terms of, the scrutiny process. Scrutiny Committees are under a duty to make arrangements to listen to the views of the public and the community and one of the roles of Scrutiny Committees is to take account of such views when considering issues and, if considered appropriate, to pass those views on to the Cabinet for their consideration.
Given the above, and taking into account the requirements of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 in terms of considering the views of the public in relation to any agenda items, a draft Guide to Public Speaking at Scrutiny Committees ("the Guide") has been prepared and is attached as Appendix A to the report.
Relevant Issues and Options
The draft Guide has been considered by the Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group and a number of suggested amendments of the Group have been incorporated. Subsequently, the Guide was submitted to the Democratic Services Committee on 21st October, 2015 for consideration. Again, a number of minor amendments were suggested and agreed and these have been incorporated within the draft Guide.
At the meeting of the Democratic Services Committee, reference was made to whether the proposed order for speaking, set out in paragraph 10.1 of the Guide, was appropriate. At that meeting, the Head of Democratic Services indicated that it was designed to provide for all of the participants to speak before the Committee itself discusses / considers the issue. This reflects the fact that Committees are then in possession of all the "evidence" / contributions from other parties before coming to their own conclusions. Members of the Committee present accepted that this was appropriate.
Members will be well aware of the many occasions when third parties (whether members of the public or "witnesses") have been involved in the discussion of issues at various Scrutiny Committees. On most, but not all, occasions these have tended to be when matters of particular interest to the public have been discussed.
In light of the above, Members are asked to note that the arrangements set out in the draft Guide will apply to "routine" agenda items. The intention is to provide for the requirements of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 in terms of allowing a member of the public to make their views known on agenda items generally. As such, it is important to bear in mind that there will continue to be occasions that the issue under consideration will be considered to be of a higher profile and / or "one off" meetings will be considered more appropriate to consider particular items. In such circumstances, more flexible arrangements will continue to apply (taking into account the level of anticipated public interest and involvement). The decision as to whether that approach would be taken would be made following consideration by the relevant Scrutiny Committee Chairman and the Head of Democratic Services. This approach is designed to reflect the views expressed by the Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen Group, in particular, in terms of their not wishing to be constrained in the event that the matter under consideration is known in advance to be of a particularly high public interest.
As can be seen from the draft Guide, a "registration" process will be involved in the event that a member of the public wishes to either speak at, or submit written views to, a Scrutiny Committee on a particular issue. Whilst there are similarities with the process which has been put in place for the Planning Committee, there are also a number of differences, which reflect the differing nature of the Planning and Scrutiny processes.
The proposals will also reflect one of the issues which arose during the last Member Scrutiny Satisfaction Survey, in that there was a desire amongst Members to raise the level of public engagement in, and the general profile of, scrutiny.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
The enhancement of public involvement in the scrutiny process will be monitored. Any costs will need to be met from within existing budgets, but the changes may result in longer Committee meetings and the need to consider adequate staff cover for Committees to ensure the process runs efficiently.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
There are no specific implications arising from the report.
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
The enhanced arrangements for public speaking will reflect the provisions contained within the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011.
Crime and Disorder Implications
There are no specific implications arising from the report.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
The introduction of enhanced speaking rights at Scrutiny Committees will allow equality of opportunity for all involved.
The Corporate Plan contains a commitment to develop a protocol for the public to give evidence at Scrutiny and Planning Committees and increase public participation in meetings.
Policy Framework and Budget
If approved by Cabinet and Council, the enhanced arrangements for public speaking will be reflected in the Council's Constitution.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
No Ward Members have been consulted as it is not a Ward specific issue.
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011
Jeff Wyatt, Head of Democratic Services, tel: (01446) 709408
Jeff Wyatt, Head of Democratic Services