Venue: Virtual meeting - Microsoft Teams. View directions
Contact: Democratic Services Email: email@example.com
Disclosures of Interest
In accordance with the Council's Code of Conduct, Councillors of the Council are reminded that it is a requirement to declare interests where appropriate.
No disclosures of interests were made.
To approve as a correct record the minutes of the Governance Committee held on 26 January 2021.
For clarification and noting, the final Temporary Polling Scheme (as approved by the Full Council) is attached as Appendix D to the minutes.
The minutes of the meeting of the Governance Committee held on 26 January 2021 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.
At the request of a Committee member it was agreed that, with regard to Minute 5 (Allocation of Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs) of the meeting held on 26 January 2021, it be noted that during the debate on the issue a Committee member expressed support for retaining the current system for the allocation of Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs.
Public Question Time
To consider any written questions that were submitted in advance and accepted in line with the Constitution. These will be read to the Committee and be followed by a response. The questioner will receive an emailed copy of the response given at the meeting. There will be no supplementary questions.
No written questions had been submitted by members of the public.
May 2021 Elections
A verbal update by the Electoral Services Manager giving information on the Returning Officer’s progress on the planning for operating polling stations and the counting of votes at the elections.
The Electoral Services Manager provided a verbal update on the May 2021 elections and informed the Committee that:
· Personal protective equipment had been purchased.
· Nearly all the necessary election staff had been recruited and the team would be looking to recruit contingency staff soon.
· All voters whose polling place was affected by the temporary changes would be written to shortly. A postal vote application form would be included with that notification letter.
· Arrangements regarding the election counts were ongoing and it was anticipated that the entire K2 Sports Hall would be used for the counts.
· It should be possible to introduce a system for the election counts whereby social distancing of 2m could be accommodated and maintained.
· He was satisfied that the election counts could be completed within a reasonable time period with slightly reduced staffing.
The Chair took the opportunity to thank the Electoral Services Team for the work being undertaken.
That the Committee notes the verbal update on the May 2021 elections.
To consider report LDS165 of the Demcratic Services Manager.
The Committee considered report LDS/165 of the Democratic Services Manager which set out the current legislative position on the format of Council meetings and requested that the Committee consider the potential options available in relation to those matters.
The Democratic Services Manager drew the Committee’s attention to the list of formal and informal meetings of the Council, which had been issued in a Supplementary Agenda. In addition to the information contained within the report, the Democratic Services Manager highlighted that:
· Unless the legal position changed or legislation was extended all Committee meetings from 8 May 2021 would need to revert to in-person meetings as virtual formal meetings would be unlawful. As of 11 March 2021 the legal position remained unchanged.
· Up to 21 June, meetings would be held in some form of lockdown.
· Whilst the Council offices remained in the current building, meetings in the committee rooms could include the use of Teams but it would not be possible to accommodate a fully hybrid style meeting. The new Town Hall would have in-built webcasting equipment which would facilitate fully hybrid meetings if required.
Councillor Lanzer then had the opportunity to speak as the Overview and Scrutiny Commission member who had suggested the issue be considered by the Governance Committee. Councillor Lanzer reiterated that Local Authorities were currently in a state of ‘limbo’ as, although the Government had indicated that it did not intend to extend the necessary legislation, that situation could change. Councillor Lanzer expressed the opinion that virtual meetings had environmental benefits as well as being more inclusive for those wishing to enter Local Government. Councillor Lanzer suggested that informal meetings should, in principle, be held virtually or in hybrid form; and that it would be counter-intuitive to hold the upcoming Full Council AGM in person if legislation was in force which enabled it to be held virtually or in hybrid form.
The Committee then considered the report, taking into account the issues highlighted by the Democratic Services Manager and Councillor Lanzer. A detailed discussion took place and it was acknowledged that, despite any wishes expressed by the Committee, should the necessary legislation not be extended, it would be a legal requirement that formal meetings be held in person, and plans needed to be put in place for that eventuality.
During the debate on the format of formal Council meetings, the Committee agreed that it was unrealistic to consider holding hybrid meetings until the Council offices moved to the new Town Hall, but support was shown for operating hybrid meetings when it was possible to do so. Several Committee members expressed support that a virtual format continue, advocating it had proven effective, had environmental benefits and would be more inclusive. Those Members suggested that, should legislation be extended, meetings should continue in that format.
Other Committee members were of the opinion that virtual meetings resulted in a loss of public in-person engagement and expressed concern that virtual meetings were susceptible to the effects of network outage and ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
Review of Provisions Relating to Call-In and Urgency
There has been one case, during the period since the last report, where an item has been protected from the Call-In Procedure on the grounds of urgency as provided for in Call-In Procedure Rule 8.
In line with the Special Urgency provisions set out in paragraph 16.4 of the Access to Information Procedure Rules within the Constitution, on 17 November 2020 Councillor Peter Lamb, as Leader of the Council, approved the following under delegated powers:
· The revised guidelines over the Business Grant Applications (Local Authority Additional Restrictions Discretionary Grants Fund) so that local business can apply for the further Discretionary Business Grant payments as soon as possible.
· That the use of the additional funding of £2,248,180 is available for Discretionary Business Grant payments to support Crawley local businesses, this is for the period up to 31st March 2022.
· Delegated authority to the Head of Corporate Finance in consultation with the Head of Economy and Planning, or another senior Officer, the decisions on individual business grant payments, subject to successful due diligence checks, application assessment and fraud checks.
The Chief Executive (as Head of Paid Service), had agreed that the decision should be Protected from Call-In under Call-In Procedure Rule 8 of the Constitution due to its urgent nature. This is so the Council could start supporting its businesses as soon as possible.
This decision was published in Councillors’ Information Bulletin .
Due to the circumstances surrounding that Protection from Call-In it is not deemed necessary to change the provisions at this stage.
That no change to the provisions relating to Call-In and Urgency be made.
The Committee was advised that there had been two cases in the last municipal year where an item had been protected from the Call-In Procedure on the grounds of urgency as provided for in Call-In Procedure Rule 8 contained within the Constitution. Details of the first decision protected from Call-In were set out in the main Agenda and an additional decision, which had been protected from Call-In since the Agenda had been published, was set out in the Supplementary Agenda.
The Committee noted that a recommendation to the Full Council in relation to this matter would only be necessary if the Committee proposed to make a change to the provisions. The Committee was reminded that the review related to the provisions regarding the protection of items from Call-In and was not a review of the Call-In Procedures themselves.
A recorded vote was taken on the recommendation as set out in the Agenda and Supplementary Agenda in accordance with the Council’s Virtual Committee Procedure Rules. The names of the Councillors voting for and against the recommendation, along with any abstentions, were recorded as follows:
For the recommendations:
Councillors Burrett, Crow, Eade, Jones, Lamb, Lanzer, Lunnon, Malik, McCarthy and Mullins (10).
Against the recommendations:
The motion was therefore declared to be CARRIED.
That no change to the provisions relating to Call-In and Urgency be made.
LGA Councillor Model Code of Conduct
The Chair took the opportunity to formally request that a report relating to the Local Government Association (LGA) Councillor Model Code of Conduct be brought before the next meeting of the Committee for its consideration. The Chair expressed the view that the suggested approach was the most appropriate way forward as it was anticipated that the promised LGA Guidance on the Code would have been issued by then, and the new Monitoring Officer would also be in post and might have some thoughts and advice to offer on the subject.
It was therefore agreed that a report on the LGA Councillor Model Code of Conduct be brought to the next meeting of the Governance Committee for its consideration.