To consider the Head of Democracy, Strategy and Partnerships’ Report No. DSP2002 (copy attached), which sets out a draft revised Constitution for recommendation to the Council.
The Committee considered the Head of Democracy, Strategy and Partnerships’ Report No. DSP2002, which set out the draft updated Constitution in full for recommendation to the Council. It was noted that at its meeting on 27th January, 2020, the Committee had received an update on progress on the review and had considered and endorsed the draft updated Standing Orders for the Regulation of Business.
It was noted that the Council had a responsibility to monitor its Constitution and ensure it was kept up to date. To this effect, updates were made on a regular basis, with those made in 2018 reflecting changes to the governance structure and the last significant review carried out in 2013 had reflected the provisions contained in the Localism Act 2011, the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012, and other general updates. However, since the Constitution was first prepared in 2001, no changes to the fundamental structure of the document had taken place and the review underway was to ensure that it reflected current working arrangements and supported the Council’s aim to be a more agile and flexible organisation in the future through its transformation and modernisation programme. It was noted that the governance structure approved in 2018 had not been subject to this review.
The Committee was advised that a cross-party Constitution Review Group had met on a number of occasions during autumn/winter 2019 to consider key documents that formed part of the Constitution and the Group’s comments and action notes were contained in Appendix 2 to the Report. It was noted that wider consultation had also been carried out with the Corporate Leadership Team, the Leader of the Council (in respect of matters relating to executive decision making) and with a representative from the Local Government Association with expertise on Council Constitutions.
The Committee considered the summary of proposed updates, as outlined in Appendix 1. Areas where significant updates were proposed, included:
· Part 3 – Scheme of Delegation for Executive Matters: revisions have been made to improve clarity around responsibilities for executive decision-making and to enable increased opportunities for some quicker decision-making. It also includes governance arrangements for new bodies such as Rushmoor Development Partnership and Rushmoor Homes Ltd and clarifies the general powers of officers in the Corporate Leadership Team.
· Part 4 – Procedure Rules and Part 5 – Codes and Protocols: revisions have been made to ensure consistency with the rest of the Constitution, with the addition of a new Mayoral Protocol, new Guidance for Members using social media linked to the Code of Conduct for Councillors and the inclusion of the ICT Acceptable Use Policy.
In discussion, a Member raised his concern about the proposed additional text in paragraph 10 of Part 5 – Selection of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor. In particular, it was suggested that the proposal for the Chief Executive to seek views on the proposed candidates should not be supported because the selection process already ensured respect and support of Members and the amendment was too broad and open to abuse. It was also questioned whether the process would be transparent and suggested it should not be brought in until May 2022. Following discussion, the Committee voted to retain the change and not to delete it.
(i) the draft Constitution incorporating the revisions summarised in Appendix 1 be endorsed for recommendation to the Council for implementation with effect from the Annual Council Meeting;
(ii) the Head of Democracy, Strategy and Partnerships, in consultation with the Chairman of the Licensing, Audit and General Purposes Committee, be authorised to make further minor changes to the draft revised Constitution in advance of the report to the Council; and
(iii) the Leader of the Council, in consultation with the Head of Democracy, Strategy and Partnerships, be authorised to make any further amendments to the Scheme of Delegation for Executive Matters required to finalise the document for Council.