This matter is the responsibility of the Council Governance Arrangements Working Group – Chair, Councillor Ross Henley.
The purpose of this report is to provide Members with an update on the work of the Council Governance Arrangements Working Group and to make recommendations as to how to proceed.
During the discussion, the following points were raised:-
· The Portfolio Holder for Corporate Resources advised the Executive of the updated recommendations approved at the meeting of the Audit, Governance and Standards Committee held on 12 April 2021.
· Councillors understood the concerns on all councillor involvement in the decision making process raised by the newer members of the council.
· Councillors were not sure that a committee system would be achievable if a Shadow Authority was formed in 2022.
· Councillors who had experienced both types of committee models explained the merits of both systems.
The Portfolio Holder for Corporate Resources explained he was not against the Executive model but he thought more could be achieved using a committee system.
· Concern was raised on the cost of moving across to a committee system.
The Portfolio Holder for Corporate Resources explained the costs involved.
· Concern was raised on voting for a committee system when the councillors did not yet know which system would be implemented.
The Portfolio Holder for Corporate Resources advised that the vote would be an ‘in principle’ decision and then work would be carried out on the implementation phase which would be reported back to Full Council for approval.
· Councillors wanted to include everyone in the decision making process.
· Councillors highlighted how cross party involvement had proved positive for Working Groups.
· Councillors believed that the Shadow Unitary Authority should choose which system they used.
· Councillors from the Governance Arrangements Working Group advised that they had worked well together and their ideas were not based on politics but what was best for the Council.
· Concern was raised that the working relationships had fallen between councillors and this was due lockdown and the use of virtual meetings and that a committee system would not improve that.
· Councillors believed that the choice of system was immaterial, it was about ensuring all councillors were involved in the decision making process.
· Councillors agreed that the two Scrutiny Committees should have been set up from the start of Somerset West and Taunton Council.
· Councillors from the Governance Arrangements Working Group advised that they had consulted with all councillors throughout their work on which options to include within the recommendations.
· Councillors were not sure this was the right time for a committee system and that it would not be fair to impose on officers in the last couple of years of Somerset West and Taunton Council being in existence.
· Councillors queried the costs and believed that the money could be better spent on other projects.
· Councillors were happy to support, as the decision was part of the Liberal Democrat manifesto.
· The Portfolio Holder for Corporate Resources thanked all councillors for their comments.
Resolved that the Council Governance Arrangements Working Group recommended to Full Council that:
Relating to the 2022 Municipal Year
2.1 The Council moved to a Committee system of governance from the Council AGM on 10 May 2022.
2.2 The Council proposed to the Unitary Shadow Authority that a committee system of governance was adopted, if set up as the principal council for the area.
2.3 The Council wrote to the Chief Executives and Leaders of the County and Districts to request that they consider that the Shadow Authority governance arrangements were set up as a Committee system.
Relating to the 2021 Municipal Year
2.4 That a second Scrutiny Committee was introduced from the AGM in 2021, with the focus being Corporate Scrutiny Committee and Community Scrutiny Committee. The split of workload for the two Scrutiny Committees (see Annex A at the end of this report) was approved.
2.5 That the number of seats on both Scrutiny Committees was 15 from the start of the 2021/2022 Municipal Year.
2.6 The Audit, Governance and Standards Committee was split into two separate Committees from the AGM in 2021, for the 2021/22 Municipal Year and became Audit and Governance Committee and Standards Committee. The Terms of Reference for both Committees (see Annex B and Annex C at the end of this report) was approved.
2.7 That the number of seats on the Audit and Governance Committee was 11 from the start of the 2021/2022 Municipal Year.
2.8 That the number of seats on the Standards Committee was 9 from the start of the 2021/2022 Municipal Year.
2.9 The role of Shadow Portfolio Holders was included within the Constitution as per the wording in Annex D to this report.
2.10 Officers and Portfolio Holders were reminded of requirements to provide information and notifications to Ward Councillors as per the Member Officer Protocol.
2.11 The Corporate Scrutiny Committee were asked to work with officers to consider a system for communicating reports to Members from representatives from outside bodies.