Council considered recommended changes to the constitution that had been made at a meeting of the Constitutional Review Working Party held on 23rd January 2023. The recommendations focused on proposed changes to the Council’s Policy Framework, detailed in the Articles of the constitution, and to the Scheme of Delegations.
The content of the report was considered in some detail and during the debate specific reference was made to the changes that had been proposed to the Council’s Policy Framework. Members commented that items that no longer existed should be removed from the Policy Framework. In addition, Members suggested that items that were likely to be considered by a more appropriate body should also be removed from the Policy Framework.
During the Constitutional Review Working Party meeting, Members had agreed that further information should be provided at the group’s following meeting in respect of the Emergency Plan, Enforcement Policies and the Sustainable Community Strategy. Members suggested that the Single Equalities Scheme should also be considered at this meeting, as concerns were raised about whether it was necessary for this to be removed from the Policy Framework at this time. The decision was taken, therefore, not to remove the Single Equalities Scheme from the Policy Framework at this time and to instead debate the issue at the following meeting of the Constitutional Review Working Party.
Concerns were raised about the extent to which it was appropriate to reduce the size of the Policy Framework and to add further delegations to officers in the Officer Scheme of Delegations. Members commented that it was important to ensure that Councillors continued to have a role in decision making as an integral part of the local democratic process. However, it was also commented that the content of the current Policy Framework was out of date. In addition, the extra delegations to officers that had been proposed would help the Council to comply with best practice and to improve the efficiency of the Council’s approach to processing Government grants. Members also noted that the delegation in respect of Government grant funding only related to grants that had been ring fenced for specific purposes and which needed to be distributed quickly in order to avoid needing to return any of the funds to the Government.
1) the Section 151 Officer be delegated authority to accept, administer and distribute ring fenced Government Grant Funding, or Funding from bodies acting on behalf of Government, and to make the necessary and corresponding adjustments to the Medium Term Financial Plan following consultation with the relevant Portfolio Holder and subject to meeting the conditions of grant funding;
2) the Chief Executive be delegated authority, as Proper Officer, to declare the office of Councillor vacant immediately after a person has ceased to be a Councillor where s/he has not attended a Council or Committee meeting for six months or more; and
3) subject to retaining the existing reference to the Single Equalities Scheme, the Policy Framework be updated to remove reference to policies that no longer exist or which are considered in an alternative forum and to add reference to the Contract Procedure Rules