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Agenda Item No. 12

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Council: 28th September, 2015

 

Report of the Monitoring Officer

 

Review of the Council's Constitution

 

Purpose of the Report

  1. To consider a draft revised Council Constitution.

Recommendations

  1. That, subject to the views of Council, the revised Council Constitution (attached as Appendix A to the report) be approved.
  2. That the Monitoring Officer be authorised to make any minor amendments, correct typographical or drafting errors and ensure all cross-references within the Constitution are correct prior to publication; these being reported to Members accordingly.
  3. That Members of the Working Party be thanked for their contribution to the drawing up of a revised Constitution.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1&2     To update / modify the Constitution in line with current requirements.

3.        To acknowledge the contribution made by members of the Working Party.

Background

  1. Since the formal introduction of the Council's new executive arrangements in May 2002, the Constitution has remained under review and will continue to be so on an ongoing basis. Under Article 15 of the Constitution the Monitoring Officer has a duty to monitor and review the operation of the Constitution to ensure that the aims and principles contained therein are given full effect. Any changes considered necessary are subject to approval by the Full Council after consideration of the proposals by the Monitoring Officer. Indeed, a number of reports amending / updating the Council's existing Constitution have been submitted to / approved by Council during the period that the overall document has been subject to review.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. Members will recall that a cross-party Constitution Working Party was established to consider amendments to the Council's existing Constitution, taking into account the new Model Version issued for consideration/adaptation by Local Authorities in Wales. As anticipated, the exercise has taken a considerable time, given the length / complexity of the document. Indeed, it appears that very few Welsh Local Authorities have concluded a review exercise such has been undertaken by this Council. The period during which this particular piece of work took place also saw significant changes to the Council's senior management / departmental structures, which, in turn, have had to be reflected in the revised document.
  2. Various officers have been going through the existing Constitution and preparing draft revised sections for consideration by the Working Party. Often, the text is very similar to the current version. However, there have also been various new legislative requirements and provisions which needed to be taken into account and which have been incorporated in earlier reports to Council and are reflected in the revised document.
  3. The Working Party has now concluded its work and a revised draft Constitution has been drawn up. Given the size of the document (over 300 pages) a copy of the Draft has been placed in each of the Group Rooms and can be found at the attached link. Obviously, a copy of the final / approved version will be made available to Members in due course (possibly in CD format, with a hard copy available on request). The composition of the Working Party (which includes all Group Leaders) has provided an excellent opportunity for open discussion on the draft Constitution as a whole and, in particular, those areas considered to be of particular relevance to Members (e.g. rules relating to Full Council, the Executive and Scrutiny Committees).
  4. Whilst the revised draft Constitution looks quite different from the existing version, by its very nature, the document largely comprises the same elements. These include Procedural Rules (for Council, the Executive and Scrutiny Committees, Financial Rules and Coded of Conduct. Meetings of the Working Party have been informed by the extensive review of all sections of the document by relevant officers. In reality, the extent of actual changes in terms of how the Council works are quite small. Indeed, throughout its consideration of this matter, the Working Party has generally been of the view that (notwithstanding changes to the format of the revised version) significant elements of the existing Constitution remain "fit for purpose". Consequently, significant elements of the Sections governing how the Full Council, the Executive and the Scrutiny Committees operate remain largely the same, if not identical, to the current version.
  5. In summary, all sections of the existing, and revised Model versions, have been reviewed, compared and updated as considered appropriate by officers and the Working Party itself. Certain sections, such as the Budget and Policy Framework Procedure Rules (section 15), Financial Procedure Rules (section 16) and Contracts Procedure Rules (Section 17) have been reviewed thoroughly and updated accordingly. As far as these are concerned, the current Constitution outlines the authorisation rules for changes to the Capital Programme.  This includes the requirement for Council's approval of transfers between schemes of over £100,000 and revenue contributions to capital also over £100,000.  Due to the timeframe between Council meetings, there is frequently the need to request Emergency Powers to approve such changes, as schemes cannot proceed without this approval and would be delayed.  In order to reduce the use of Emergency Powers, it is requested that these financial limits are increased to £500,000. 
  6. It is also requested that capital slippage between years, which results in no increase to the approved total budget for a scheme, is approved by Cabinet instead of Council, which is the current requirement.  These changes are as a result of timing issues and do not alter the existing total approved budget.  This change will also reduce the need for the use of Emergency Powers. Other limits have been updated as they have not be changed for a number of years.
  7. Section 4 ("Full Council") includes, subject to approval by Council, making permanent the revised arrangements relating to Council Questions, which have been operating on a trial basis for several meetings.
  8. The Guide to Public Speaking at Planning Committee is incorporated (Section 19).
  9. Section 24 comprises a detailed "suite" of Member Role Descriptions and Person Specifications are included. Subject to these being approved by Council, they will form part of the Council's Member Development Strategy, which, in itself, is to be reviewed and updated.
  10. Importantly, there were a number of elements / provisions within the draft Model version which the officers involved and the Working Party felt should NOT be included in the draft version submitted to Council. In particular, these related to:
  • limitations which would have been placed on the number of questions which Members and / or political groups as a whole would have been entitled to submit / ask at Council meetings;
  • similarly, limitations and / or tighter provisions surrounding the submission by Members of Notices of Motion in advance of Council meetings;
  • a provision which would have made it more difficult for the Leader of the Council to be removed by Members.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. None as a direct result of this report

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. None as a direct result of this report

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. The Council is required to comply with the Local Government Act 2000 and subordinate legislation in the drawing up and subsequent operation of the Constitution.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. The Constitution has been updated to reflect current legislation and, where considered appropriate, the contents of the revised Model Constitution.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. None as a direct result of this report

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. The Constitution is part of the framework supporting the Council's commitment to provide political leadership and active relationship and engagement

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. The adoption and subsequent changing of the Constitution is a matter for the Full Council

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. The monitoring and amendment of the Constitution is an internal matter and therefore no external consultation is necessary

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Corporate Resources

Background Papers

Council's Constitution

Contact Officer

Jeff Wyatt, Tel: 01446 709408

Officers Consulted

Managing Director

Head of Finance

Responsible Officer:

Debbie Marles, Monitoring Officer

 

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