Terms of Reference and areas of responsibility for the Policy and Performance Co-ordinating Committee and Meeting Procedure Rules
- Meeting of Policy and Performance - Coordinating Committee, Wednesday, 3rd July 2013 6.00 p.m. (Item 10.)
Report by the Director of Public Health/ Head of Policy and Performance.
To receive a presentation.
The Committee considered two reports by the Director of Public Health/Head of Policy and Performance (Fiona Johnstone) and agreed to discuss the details of both at the same time.
The first report informed Members of the Committee’s Terms of Reference as detailed in Article 6 of the Council’s Constitution. This was set out in Appendix 1 to the report. The Constitution had recently been revised and updated in response to the need to improve the Council’s corporate governance and decision making processes.
The Committee noted that the main changes to the Constitution involved:
· The creation of four Policy and Performance Committees to undertake overview and scrutiny
· The creation of four new Constituency Committees to devolve decision-making in line with the Localism Act
· A revised Scheme of Delegation
· Changes to the format of Council meetings
Members also noted the functions and powers of all four Policy and Performance Committees, including responsibilities in relation to health scrutiny. The terms of reference also highlighted the additional responsibilities of the Co-ordinating Committee.
In the second report the Director of Public Health/Head of Policy and Performance proposed the Meeting Procedure Rules under which formal meetings of the Policy and Performance Committees could be undertaken. They were detailed in Appendix 1 to the report. Members were requested to consider these Rules, suggest any amendments required and give their approval in order that updated Rules could be published within the relevant section of Part 4 of the Council’s Constitution.
The Director of Public Health/Head of Policy and Performance also made a presentation to the Committee on the key principles which covered the aims and approach to scrutiny, pre decision and post decision scrutiny, the Committee Structure and how it would fit in with the new Constitutional arrangements.
Members noted that within the Policy and Performance Committee Procedure Rules it was proposed that the membership of the Committee should include the Chairs and Vice Chairs of the Council’s other three Policy and Performance Committees. However, it was also noted that the Chair of the Policy and Performance Families and Wellbeing Committee, Councillor Wendy Clements, was not a member of the Co-ordinating Committee. Some Members queried this and asked if it was an oversight. The Director of Public Health/Head of Policy and Performance reported that such a membership arrangement was regarded as good practice but it was not a mandatory requirement.
The Head of Legal and Member Services (Surjit Tour) informed that this membership issue could be kept under review and if the Chair of the Policy and Performance Families and Wellbeing Committee not being a member hampered the Co-ordinating Committee’s role at some stage, appropriate action could be agreed.
A Member drew attention to paragraph 16(g) of the Appendix to the Meeting Procedure Rules report regarding Call-in which read as follows:
‘If the Co-ordinating Committee agrees with the decision the relevant Senior Officer may implement it. In the event of any political group not agreeing with the majority decision of the Co-ordinating Committee, it may prepare a written minority report for consideration by Council when the minutes of the Co-ordinating Committee are considered. Any such report must be handed to the Head of Legal and Member Services in accordance with Standing Order 7(2). The Leader of the relevant group or his/her representative will have an opportunity to explain the minority report to the Council and Council may discuss and vote for/or against such a report without prejudice to any decision already implemented.’
The Member informed that he did not understand what was meant by this. The Head of Legal and Member Services informed that the taking of a decision did not preclude discussion or debate on it and did not fetter the Council’s discretion. He informed that he would circulate an easily understandable form of words in plain English on this matter to all Members of the Committee.
A Member referred to the traditional Committee lay out of the room where Members sat next to Members of their own Political Groups. He proposed that they be mixed up and sit with Members of other Political Groups at future meetings. He considered that this revised style would be less confrontational and combative. The Member also proposed that enquiries be made on best practice with regard to seating arrangements adopted in other Councils and whether it was considered productive.
A Member referred to the first meeting of the Council held on 24 June 2013, a Special meeting arranged to consider a called-in decision regarding the 2013 Local Government Association Conference. He was confused as two of the Members who had signed the call-in notice had agreed to Members being allowed to go to the Conference. Another Member raised the issue that Members who had signed the call-in notice had sat on the Committee that scrutinised the decision and asked if this could not be interpreted as predetermination.
A Member drew attention to the last sentence in paragraph 16(g) as follows:
‘The Chair may accept written documentary evidence where appropriate.’
The Member considered that if witnesses were unable to attend a call-in meeting they should not be allowed to provide written submissions because the Committee would be unable to clarify points with them.
Another Member considered that it should be a matter for the Committee whether it wished to received written submissions from witnesses who were unable to attend call-in meetings. He felt that if a written submission was likely to prove valuable and assist the Committee, then perhaps they should be allowed and Members could attach what weight they wanted to it. Others considered that the Chair should exercise his judgement and decide whether any written correspondence received should be put before the Committee. They also believed that Members should attend call-in meetings with an open mind.
The Member also referred to the language used at the call-in meeting and informed that other local authorities did not operate their meetings with aggression they saw them as a means of receiving important information.
A Member queried the connection between the scrutiny function and the four new Constituency Committees. The Director of Public Health/Head of Policy and Performance informed that the remits of Constituency Committees were still evolving and their functions would be determined at the local level. Decisions made by these committees would be subject to scrutiny. If an issue arose relating to a particular area it could be possible to ask the relevant Constituency Committee to carry out an investigation and report back to the relevant policy and Performance Committee. However, Constituency Committees were unable to scrutinise their own decisions. They could be used as consultative bodies, informing of local opinion on specific matters raised.
(1) the terms of reference of the four Policy and Performance Committees be noted as detailed in Article 6 of the Council’s Constitution;
(2) the Meeting Procedure Rules as set out in Appendix 1 to the report be approved and the Constitution be updated accordingly; and
(3) if the Chair of the of the Policy and Performance Families and Wellbeing Committee is not a member of the Co-ordinating Committee then the Vice Chair will be requested to represent it at Co-ordinating Committee meetings.