Agenda item

Changes to the Constitution

The matters set out in this report amount to modest changes to the SWT Constitution. This is to achieve, better clarity, the updating of minor changes and procedural refinement. This will ease the interpretation and effectiveness of the Constitution.



The Governance Specialist introduced the report: 

·                     It was raised that the purpose of this report was to update some of the wording and job titles in the Constitution to ensure the Council can work effectively and carry out its functions. The report had been drafted with the two deputy monitoring officers and with the involvement of officers from other areas within the Council such as planning.  

·                     The changes included the threshold for key decisions being reduced to £500,000. 

·                     The updates to the terms of reference of the Planning Committee included the insertion of the planning phosphates sub-committee into the constitution.  

·                     The Council Procedure Rules had been updated with changes around procedures for substitutions and motions.  

·                     Regulations and procedures for petitions, including e-petitions, had also been added. The report sought to amend the threshold for the number of signatures on a petition to be 1600 signatures, an increase from the current 200 signatures required, to align more closely with the surrounding districts.  

·                     The reason for decreasing the key decision threshold was likewise to align with surrounding local authorities.  

·                     It was proposed that there be some changes to the Contract and Financial Procedure Rules which reflected the legislation changes as a result of leaving the European Union.  

·                     The Chairs of Scrutiny were briefed on the report this morning. 

·                     The report would proceed to Full Council in February.   


During the debate the following points were raised: 

·                     Regarding the planning committee terms of reference and the criteria for a planning application being controversial, it was suggested that changing the need to have four individuals and also a member of one of the subsequent local authorities support the objection be changed so that the member was needed but more individuals, perhaps twelve, be needed to support the objection.  

·                     It was suggested that for planning applications having a ward member or parish councillor and four individuals where it was contrary to the officer's recommendation worked well and that increasing the number needed to support above four would likely result in very few objections being brought to the Planning Committee by that method. Officers noted that in the next four months there would be a need to look at adding a section on planning to the new authority's constitution. The existing authorities would need to create this. Any further changes could therefore be looked at as part of that drafting process. 

·                     A query was raised in relation to motions to Council and a motion previously made at Full Council. It was responded by officers that there would be a further discussion in the new year regarding how the proposed amendments to motions would have impacted previous events. This would be through a meeting with the group leaders and alternative amendment options would also be discussed.  

·                     It was raised that inevitably as local government reorganisation moved towards the new unitary authority being formed, a county wide local plan would be needed and there would need to be a common set of standards created.  

·                     It was questioned whether it was worthwhile changing the constitution now given the ongoing local government reorganisation.  

·                     It was raised that these amendments to the Council’s constitution were pragmatic amendments to get the Council safely to 2023.  

·                     It was raised that the petition threshold being raised to be 1% of the population would not enable so many local issues to be raised and brought to the Council for consideration.  


A motion was proposed by councillor Steve Pugsley and seconded by councillor Simon Coles that the committee accept all the proposed changes to the constitution contained within the report except for the proposed change to increase the number of signatures for a petition to be brought before the Council, with the number of required signatures to instead remain at 200. The report was to be edited at points 16.2 and 16.6 to reflect the signatures required remaining at 200.  


The Committee resolved to carry the motion.  


The Committee resolved to note the recommendation in the report with the amendment that the number of signatures required for a petition to be brought before the Council remained at 200:  

2.1 Full Council resolves to accept the proposals from the Deputy Monitoring Officers (DMOs) and delegates to the DMOs the amendments to give effect to the proposals. 



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