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Agenda Item No. 6   

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Democratic Services Committee: 21st November 2012

 

Report of the Head of Democratic Services

 

Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011: Draft Guidance Re Members' Annual Reports

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To afford Members the opportunity of expressing views on draft guidance received from the Welsh Government regarding Members' Annual Reports, as provided for under the Measure.

Recommendation

That the draft guidance be noted and any views expressed by the Committee be conveyed accordingly.

Reason for the Recommendation

To apprise Members and afford the opportunity of responding to the draft guidance.

 

Background

2.             Section 5 of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 contains a requirement for Local Authorities to make provision, from April 2012, for each Member to make an Annual Report on their activities and for the publication by Members of such Reports. 

3.             In the absence, until recently, of any specific Welsh Government guidance, it was considered prudent to progress the matter within the Council and, in September 2011, a draft format for introduction following the 2012 election was considered and approved by the former Member Development Working Group.  A copy (see Appendix A) was subsequently included in the Candidates' Pack issued to all those standing in the 2012 election.  The format is straightforward, provides for a consistent approach from Members and results in a concise document.  The position will be reviewed following the first year of its use. 

Relevant Issues and Options

4.             On 1st October, 2012 the Welsh Government issued draft Statutory Guidance in respect of Members' Annual Reports. 

Introduction

 

What the Measure requires

 

Section 5 requires county and county borough councils (local authorities) to ensure that elected Members are able to make an Annual Report on their council activities during the previous year. This includes enabling any member of the council’s Executive to be able to report on their Executive activities also. Any reports produced by Members must be published by the Council.

 

A local authority is free to set conditions / limits on what is included in a report

 

A local authority must publicise what arrangements it has for publishing Annual Reports and in drawing up these arrangements must have regard to this guidance in so doing.

 

Guidance

 

Duties of a local authority.

 

A local authority must make the arrangements enabling its Members to produce Annual Reports. This means it must tell its Members how and by when to do this. The Measure provides for a Head of Democratic Services (HDS) to facilitate the provision of support and advice to Members to assist them in the carrying out of their functions and organisation of the Annual Report process would fall within this.  It is anticipated that the first Annual Reports would be published no later than the end of June 2013.

 

Publication of reports

 

How a local authority decides to publish is a matter for that authority to decide upon. The minimum requirement would be for the authority to include a link to a Member’s Annual Report on that part of the authority’s website which carries details of individual Members. There is no requirement for any publicity beyond this, and authorities should be careful that, if they decide to provide any further publicity for the Reports, the same provision is provided for all Members. Therefore, should a Member request that his / her report is given any greater publicity, that request should be declined unless carried out in respect of all Members.

 

Local authorities should ensure also that their website includes information about the introduction of Annual Reports and how members of the public can access them.

 

Content of reports

 

The central purpose of the Annual Reports is for members of the public to find information about their local councillor’s activity.

 

Local authorities may place their own restrictions on content in reports.

 

Annual Reports should include only factual information. In the main that would suggest information on meetings, events and conferences etc. attended, training and development received. While it might be acceptable to record information such as “made representations on behalf of the campaign to save the local hospital in the following ways”, it would not be acceptable to say “succeeded in saving local hospital by my efforts on my constituents’ behalf”.

 

Similarly, care should be taken to avoid including in reports information concerning activities when the Member concerned is not operating in the role of councillor. So, whereas it would be acceptable to include information concerning, for instance, a speech made at a conference where the Member was attending because of their council role, it would not be acceptable to refer to a speech made to, for instance, a Party conference, where the Member was a delegate from their local party organisation.

 

Care should also be taken not to include information which could be interpreted as critical of another Member. For instance, it would not be acceptable for a Member to compare his / her attendance or activities with that of another Member or Members.

 

The following areas are suggested as potential standard items to be included:

  • Role and responsibilities – to include details of membership of committees and outside bodies, attendance records for these and full council.
  • Local activity – details of surgeries held, representations made on behalf of electors and the results of these.
  • Major projects – involvement in local, county or regional initiatives or projects.
  • Learning and development – details of training and development events attended or undertaken, conferences and seminars attended.

Subject to Members' views regarding the above, the pro-forma to be used may require amendment.

 

5.             Reference has been made during the Member Induction Programme to the above provision now existing.  Officers from Democratic Services will be able to assist in terms of providing to Members statistical information in terms of attendances.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

6.             Some of the Measure's provisions will have resource implications. At a time when Councils are under severe pressure to reduce costs the Measure may well increase workloads.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

7.             There are no direct implications arising from the report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

8.             As set out in the Measure and this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

9.             None.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

10.        These matters will have been taken into account by the Welsh Government in making the Measure.

Corporate/Service Objectives

11.        The Measure makes arrangements for changes to the political structure of local government in Wales and the way in which local government operates.

Policy Framework and Budget

12.        The terms of reference of the Democratic Services Committee include "To have regard to Welsh Ministerial guidance when exercising its function".

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

13.        None.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

14.        Corporate Resources.

Background Papers

Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011.

Report to Cabinet: 8th June, 2011.

Draft Statutory Guidance issues by Welsh Government: 3rd February, 2012.

 

Contact Officer

Mr. J. Wyatt, Head of Democratic Services, tel: (01446) 709408

 

Officers Consulted

Managing Director

 

Responsible Officer:

Mr. J. Wyatt, Head of Democratic Services

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