Agenda and minutes
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Contact: Shirley Hudspeth
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Apologies for Absence
There were no apologies for absence received.
Members Declarations of Interest
There were no declarations of interest.
To approve the minutes of the meeting of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee meeting held on 11 June 2019.
That the Minutes of the meeting of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee held on 11 June 2019 be confirmed as a correct record.
A Report by the Director of Governance and Assurance introduced by the Director of the Merseyside Pension Fund sought the Committee’s approval to the constitutional arrangements that the Pension Committee, at its meeting on 16 July 2019, had recommended to the Council in order to implement the requirements imposed on administering authorities for local government pension schemes by the Local Government Pension Scheme (Management and Investment of Funds) Regulations 2016 (the Investment Regulations) to establish, in accordance with the guidance of the Secretary of State arrangements with other LGPS Pension Funds to pool investments in order to oversee greater efficiency and economise on the costs of investment management.
The Committee noted that Tameside and Bradford Councils were the administering authorities for the local government pension schemes in Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire respectively.
The Committee also noted that the Pensions Committee had proposed that the Council, in its capacity as administering authority for the LGPS in Merseyside should enter into pooling arrangements with Tameside and Bradford Councils and to that end set up a Joint Governance Committee composed of elected representatives of all three authorities to oversee the implementation of the pooling of investments by the three LGPS schemes.
No other options were being considered since the reasons for the recommendations were adequate, and had the support of the Council’s Pensions Committee and Tameside and Bradford Councils.
Appended to the report were:
· Minute No. 27 Extract of the meeting of the Pensions Committee held on 16 July 2019;
· the report of the Director of Pensions to the Pensions Committee on 16 July 2019; and
· the draft Northern LGPS Operating Agreement.
The Pensions Director was in attendance at the meeting and answered Members questions on the following matters raised.
· The option for a pooling company was not a statutory or regulatory requirement. An exemption could be obtained under Section 9 of the Financial Services and Markets Act. It could be demonstrated to the Government that the three local authorities were operating on a joint venture basis. Operating as a joint venture was the lower cost option and advice had been taken on this. The Pool was not seeking to incur unnecessary costs.
· Compulsory exit and voluntary exit procedures.
· Indemnity and protection of Members against any personal sanctions whilst carrying out functions as a Councillor were covered by the Public Health Act 1875 and by the Council’s insurance.
· There was no uncertainty over the assets of the Merseyside Pensions Fund. The agreement had been structured in such a way that the assets of the Merseyside Pension Fund would be returned to the Fund in the fullness of time.
· Pooling partners and ethical investors.
· The Joint Investment Policy that was in place.
That this Committee recommends to the Council:
(1) the proposed principles of governance contained in the draft Operating Agreement approved by the Pensions Committee at its meeting on 16 July 2019 and in particular the establishment of a Joint Committee with Tameside and Bradford Councils to oversee the required arrangements ... view the full minutes text for item 12.
Councillor Dave Mitchell, the Chair of the Business Overview and Scrutiny Committee was in attendance at the meeting and introduced his comprehensive report on the review of the Council’s overview and scrutiny committee arrangements that had been undertaken in consultation with the Committee Chairs and Group representatives. Members had considered the number of committees and their respective terms of reference and the report set out suggested steps on how to improve the arrangement.
The Committee was informed that the Scrutiny Review Panel had been established and an all non-executive Members’ Workshop had been held. The report detailed the outcomes of the review of the scrutiny arrangements of the Business Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The findings and recommendations reflected the views of all the Members who had been involved.
The Review Panel had commissioned the Scrutiny Team to carry out a research exercise to explore governance including scrutiny arrangements at authorities with statistical similarities to Wirral and the experiences of Councils in the UK where committee systems had been introduced. A briefing pack had been approved by Chairs and Party Spokespersons of all four Overview and Scrutiny Committees and circulated to all non-executive Members in preparation for the workshop. It included statutory guidance on overview and scrutiny in local government published in May 2019. This was a best practice guide and it was noted that Wirral already fulfils several of these areas of focus. It was also worth noting that areas that needed work were around organisational culture which required a long term commitment to change.
The Scrutiny Review Workshop for all non-executive Members was held on 17 July 2019 to review current scrutiny arrangements in Wirral and to discuss future options for scrutiny and Members from all Political Groups were in attendance, eleven in all, as well as key members of the Strategic Leadership Team. The Statutory Scrutiny Officer facilitated the session in order to ensure the strategic objections were clear, to provide an overview of the current arrangements and to ensure that key points were considered as part of the workshop.
At the Workshop Members were asked to consider what had been working well and what key principles of overview and scrutiny were important. The discussion produced two lists of positive areas of scrutiny and areas for improvement. Members then asked questions about developing a fit for purpose overview model for Wirral and two models had been presented and were detailed in the report.
As a result of the Members’ Workshop several crucial findings had been gathered and there was agreement for the retention of the following key principles in any new model of governance to ensure decision-making was efficient, effective and legitimate:
· Openness and Transparency
· Ensuring Effective Oversight
· Holding Partners to account.
· Use of Task and Finish and Scrutiny Review Groups – Pre-decision Scrutiny.
· Effective Assignment of Members with appropriate knowledge and skills and across political groups to relevant Committees and sub-Committees.
· Continued Engagement with Stakeholders.
Councillor Mitchell reported that it was important to note that two separate ... view the full minutes text for item 13.
At the Annual Meeting of the Council the Committee had been charged with carrying out a review of the Council’s governance arrangements. Consequently, Councillor Tony Cox introduced a report by the Governance Review Working Group that had undertaken this work. The Working Group had met during the summer and, with the assistance of the Local Government Association (LGA), had conducted interviews and had hosted an all Member workshop. The findings of the Working Group, and its implications, were set out in the report.
The Governance Review Working Group had considered that the recommended move to a Streamlined Committee System form of governance best met its objectives for governance arrangements of:
· Accountability – responsibilities and accountability should be clear, within the Council and to residents;
· Credibility – governance should assist good decision making, which involved proper and early scrutiny;
· Transparency – the decision making process should be open and transparent to Members and to the public;
· Collaboration - decision making should be collaborative across parties and less combative;
· Timeliness – decision making should be both quick and effective and, when necessary, allow for urgent decision making.
Members noted that the recommendations, if adopted, set in train a number of pieces of work to be completed to allow for the change of form of governance within the desired timeframe.
The Committee was informed that varying alternative governance arrangements had been considered by the Working Group. This had included a particular emphasis on a more inclusive and open version of a Leader and Cabinet form of executive arrangements, as well as ‘Hybrid’ and other forms of governance arrangements.
However, these other governance options had been rejected as it was considered that they would not achieve the objectives to the same high degree or as conclusively as a Streamlined Committee System.
The Working Group had considered delaying the implementation date of the change of governance arrangements to the Annual Meeting of 2021 to allow for more time to draw up a satisfactory working structure. However, it was satisfied that any advantages were more than outweighed by the view that such a delay would be counter-productive and that a workable revised Constitution could be produced in the given time period.
Appended to the report was:
· Appendix A – The Presentation slides for the Governance Review Workshop; and
· Appendix B – The Governance Review Working Group’s Chair’s Report.
Councillor Cox reported that accountability, credibility and transparency were paramount and it was important not just to keep governance arrangements the same but about improving them so that the electors could hold Members to account. Also, collaborative working was very important and the current form of governance did not actually endear people to work in collaboration. If the Council was to move forward with an improved form of governance there was now an opportunity to make a genuine change to how the Council was actually run and the oversight that Members had.
Councillor Cox also reported that it was important that information was made available because in the ... view the full minutes text for item 14.
The Director of Governance and Assurance introduced his report on the Membership of the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP). He informed that the ongoing review of the Council’s governance arrangements may result in the introduction of a different set of roles and responsibilities for Members. In the light of that, the Director asked the Committee to confirm postponement of the ongoing review of this Council’s Scheme of Members’ Allowances pending the agreement of any revised governance arrangements.
The Director of Governance and Assurance informed that discussion with Members had highlighted that the onset of any revised governance arrangements of whichever form they might take, was an ideal juncture at which to refresh the membership of the IRP and introduce fresh perspectives. Moreover, whilst the Council was extremely grateful to the current IRP for the work that it had carried out, its membership had remained largely unchanged for a considerable number of years. In order to maintain a robust IRP review process and to sustain a public perception of independence it was necessary that the membership of the IRP was refreshed from time to time.
The Director informed that Government guidance suggested that the IRP’s membership should be refreshed every three to five years and the current IRP consisted of some very long serving members, with the exception of its Chair who was relatively new.
The Committee was also asked to consider whether any of the Panel members should receive an honorarium. It was informed that currently, only the Chair received one in the sum of £500 per annum.
(1) pending any revised governance arrangements coming into effect, the Committee:
(a) agrees to pause the current review of the Members’ Allowances Scheme;
(b) agrees to refresh the membership of the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) in advance of requesting a new review of the Scheme of Members’ Allowances in respect of any revised Council governance arrangements; and
(c) authorises the Head of Democratic and Member Services:
(i) to advertise for candidates from the general public and a wide range of organisations, including the local business community and voluntary organisations, for up to five members of the IRP to serve for a period of four years and conduct the next review of Members’ Allowances;
(ii) to separately recruit a Chair for the IRP as he or she will have a separate and distinct skill set and knowledge requirement; and
(iii) to interview and recommend for selection (in consultation with Political Group Leaders) up to five nominees, including the Chair for appointment to the IRP;
(2) the nominees for appointment to the IRP be subject to the Council’s approval;
(3) an honorarium of £500 (no increase) be paid to the Chair of the Panel only, for a period of four years; and
(4) the scope of the review of the Scheme of Members’ Allowances be comprehensive, taking into account any revision of governance arrangements.
CHAIR'S THANK YOU
Councillor Tony Cox thanked all of the Members who had worked with him on the Governance Review Working Group. He considered that a good piece of cross party work had been produced.
Councillor Cox also thanked all the Officers who had assisted the Governance Review Working Group for their help and support.