ATTENDANCE AT MEETINGS
To note the attendance by members of the Standards Committee at County, Town and Community Council and to receive their reports.
The Deputy Monitoring Officer (DMO) presented a report (previously circulated) for members to consider and agree a coordinated and structured approach to their attendance and observation at meetings and feedback. Details of County Council Committees, Town, City and Community Councils and suggested script, and draft feedback form had been appended to the report.
By way of introduction, the Chair advised that members had not attended meetings for some time and the purpose of the report was to agree a way forward. She also highlighted discussions with the Monitoring Officer on the remuneration potential for the activity, given that independent members of other Standards Committees (at least two other North Wales authorities), were remunerated to undertake those visits. It was clarified that independent members in Denbighshire could claim travel expenses for visits but payment was not currently made for the attendance element.
The DMO advised that the activity had always been perceived as a voluntary task in Denbighshire and there was currently no budget for that purpose. Informal advice from the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales indicated that remuneration for the activity was discretionary. The item had been listed for discussion at the Heads of Democratic Services Group which would provide an all-Wales position on the issue. The matter would also need to be considered in the context of the current cost of living crisis and diminishing council budgets. It was proper that the matter be given due consideration and it was suggested that the Committee consider the issue at a future meeting, either formally or informally, to form a view taking into account the position of other local authorities in Wales and financial considerations.
During debate there was general support for consistency of approach across Wales and the Committee agreed that it would be sensible to await further information on the subject to facilitate an informed discussion. It was agreed that discussion should be carried out in a formal meeting in an open and transparent way. It was noted that a programme of attendance could be tailored and costed as appropriate, with potential to target areas of concern/complaint, whilst also taking into account the supportive nature of the visits for all, and ensuring public accessibility.
There was some debate on whether to delay consideration of the current report and the approach to future attendance and feedback pending the outcome of the discussion on the remuneration potential for that work. The Chair explained the reasoning behind the report, highlighting the approach previously taken to attending meetings and general consensus that a more formal approach should be carried out. She elaborated on the process taken in a different county of which she was also a Standards Committee member as a starting point for consideration, highlighting the selection process for identifying town/community councils to visit and a number of operational considerations, which resulted in a structured programme carried out over one year. Outcomes were fed back to the Standards Committee with generic messages back to all town/community councils in terms of both reminders and best practice to support and facilitate improvement. Specific feedback to individual councils, if required, was provided by the Monitoring Officer.
As a way forward, the Committee agreed to consider the potential remuneration for attendance at their next meeting, and to defer the consideration of the approach to their attendance and feedback pending the outcome of the remuneration discussion. In the interim, the Chair and DMO would produce a potential methodology in line with the process outlined at the meeting and taking into account the feedback form. The ultimate decision on remuneration would be for the Council but members stressed the importance of Council recognising the value of those visits in promotion of the Code of Conduct and reduction in complaints.
RESOLVED that –
(a) a report be submitted to the next meeting of the Committee on the potential remuneration for independent members’ attendance and observation at meetings, to include comparisons with other local authorities in Wales and financial considerations, and
(b) consideration of a structured approach to attendance and observation at meetings and feedback, to include a potential methodology, be deferred to the Committee’s next meeting in order to be further informed by the report at (a) above and the outcome of that discussion.
- Report on Attendance at Committees, item 6. PDF 120 KB
- Appendix I Committees at County Level, item 6. PDF 207 KB
- Appendix 2 Community Meetings linc, item 6. PDF 192 KB
- Standards Committee Members Feedback Form Appendix 3, item 6. PDF 225 KB