Venue: Committee Room 1 - Civic Centre. View directions
Contact: Gareth Price Head of Law & Regulation
Declarations of Interest
On page 3 of the minutes Councillor K. Thomas stated that the second paragraph down under item 4, could this be corrected to ‘Councillor K Thomas made reference to the role Councillors take on”.
On page 4 Councillor Hourihane stated that on the seventh paragraph down where it states ‘group of newly elected Councillors’. Councillor Hourihane stated that other Councillors also attended not just Councillor Hourihane and that it was the Councillors that had said that the training was good not the Democratic Services officers but that the Councillors had not received the feedback.
In the last paragraph Councillor K. Thomas stated that where it is written ‘there was a visible shortfall with only 30% females’. Councillor Thomas clarified that they meant that on the Council there was only 30% of elected members that are female.
Councillor M. Evans stated that where it says ‘Councillor Hughes had suggested that some of the older Councillors should not be mentors’, the word ‘not’ to be removed.
Councillor Hourihane stated that on page 5 should be added to a future agenda.
On page 8 Councillor Thomas said that on the first paragraph that the role of Councillors was demanding- ‘therefore’ to be taken out.
The Chair moved the Minutes as an accurate record.
The Head of Law and Regulation updated the Committee that Leanne Rowlands had been appointed as the new Democratic Services Manager and that Connor Hall had been appointed as a new Scrutiny Advisor.
The Head of Law and Regulation stated that this report was about the process rather than the functionality of the Audit Committee. It was explained that the new legislation came into force in January 2021 and there would be new changes introduced between now and May 2022.
· The title of Audit Committee had now changed to Governance and Audit Committee.
· There would be a change to some statutory functions so there were some additional terms including reviewing performance assessment and the complaints handling processes.
· The Committee was asked to note these changes and recommend to Council to amend the constitution to change the name of Audit Committee from 1 April and to include those additional functions in the terms of reference.
· Appendix 1 contained the current terms of reference for Audit Committee and Appendix 2 had been amended to what it should be.
· In terms of performance assessment, the act entirely changed the Council’s framework in terms of the annual improvement report and the corporate plan report. It changed to a self-assessment process where councils assessed their own performance, and it was subject to an independent peer review on an annual basis. This would have an impact on Scrutiny committees going forward.
· According to the WLGA this would be a fundamental change of culture as to how the Council assesses its performance.
· The current duties under the 2009 measure in terms of continual improvement and annual audit report would be discontinued and replaced with a self-assessment process which would have an impact across the Council in terms of Scrutiny and service planning and how scrutiny reviewed performance.
· The new Governance and Audit Committee would have an enhanced role as part of the annual self-assessment process and to assess that the Councils processes were robust. Complaints that go to Cabinet would in future be referred to the Governance and Audit Committee in terms of how we handled complaints as opposed to the outcome.
· The final point discussed was the membership of the Governance and Audit Committee, which was not immediate, but the composition of the committee would change. At present there was one lay member which was a legal requirement who is an independent Chair, and the other 8 members are elected Members, and this was proportionally balanced. As of next May 2022, there would be a legal requirement that one third of the committee were independent members. Therefore, the Council would have to recruit new additional members. The Chairs term comes to an end next May 2022 so 3 new independent members would be needed to serve on the committee.
The Head of Law and Regulation stated that this recruitment process was currently being discussed with the Chief Internal Auditor and the Head of Finance as to how to commence this process as all Councils ... view the full minutes text for item 3.
The Head of Law and Regulation stated that the report was for information. Between now and next May 2022 hybrid meetings were being developed. This was a mixture of face-to-face meetings and allowing Councillors to dial in remotely. This was to be discussed later in the Committee.
Welsh Government were keen to provide guidance to Councillors and Local Authorities on how these hybrid meetings should be conducted also referred to as Multi-Location Meetings.
The report was a draft so if Members had any comments, they could be fed back to the WLGA and Welsh Government.
The Committee were informed that Newport City Council had secured £52,000 grant funding from the Digital Democracy Fund to improve the infrastructure in the Council Chambers and Committee rooms and to enhance the software.
The project group would present a presentation to the Committee in time, as to how this new system would work building on the Microsoft Teams technology being used already which fed into the kit already there in the Council Chambers and other meeting rooms.
It would provide an opportunity for Councillors to dial in remotely so it would make it more flexible for people to participate in committee meetings which considered Welsh Governments diversity agenda to encourage more people to become Councillors.
The Monitoring officer noted that they felt that there was a lot of description there as well as being quite wordy and it could benefit from an executive summary which was to be fed back.
· Councillor Hourihane asked as to how long the Council would be tied into the Teams software.
The Head of Law and Regulation stated that the Council have taken a policy decision to stick with Microsoft Teams as other software did not provide the same data security that Microsoft provided.
Members and other officers could attend other meetings/events on Zoom but the sharing of confidential information on Zoom was not advised.
The Microsoft Licences were part of the 365 package that the Council pay for, and Zoom would be quite expensive if paid for as an extra.
· Councillor Hughes welcomed the Welsh language paragraph and that it was an opportunity for the potential to improve the use of Welsh language and they expressed a wish to move to statutory rather than guidance which could fall lower down in priority and to use Welsh language across the board more publicly.
· Councillor Hughes also stated that there was a real need to think about how Chairs operated as they would need to be more tech savvy as they would need to have new skills dealing with Councillors attending remotely and in person.
· Councillor Hughes provided feedback on the problems encountered in Chairing which sometimes came from the technology used by the public which wasn’t always up to scratch.
The Head of Law and Regulation stated that in relation to Welsh language one of the advantages of Zoom was a simultaneous translation. Microsoft have given their word they would develop that Welsh translation function as simultaneous translation ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
The Head of Law and Regulation stated that this agenda item was presented to the Committee to make Members aware of the work involved in implementing the legislation. Members have had seminars and information sessions on certain aspects of the Local Government and Elections Act in terms of corporate joint committees. However, there was a lot of detail and it was important to cover everything in terms of all the aspects of the legislation.
Points to Note:
· The legislation was being brought into force in stages through various commencement orders.
· The Implementation Schedule keeps track of what’s in force and when we must make the necessary amendments to comply.
· There were areas where a political steer was needed, and the Democratic Services Committee also needed to be more actively involved and take this forward in terms of how much they wanted the public to be involved.
· Would the Committee want members of the public to raise questions in Council or get the public involved in Scrutiny etc.
· A petition scheme would also have to be published about how we receive and deal with petitions. There was a function for petitions to be posted online to the Council and the Modern.gov software could be adapted to allow this.
· The new self-assessment process would have a significant impact on the Scrutiny committees which would link into public participation.
· Policies could be developed by officers, but Members needed to inform officers as to what they wanted in the developed policies.
· Councillor M. Evans stated that they were keen to ensure a system was created where the public could ask questions to Cabinet etc, and that the public had the opportunity to do this. However, it was important to be mindful of the single-issue person that doesn’t speak for everyone and if the public were able to ask questions, then it needed to ensure that it was not a single issue. Councillor M. Evans also referred to petitions and stated that there maybe needed to be a Petitions Committee like what Welsh Government has. Councillor M. Evans also asked about job sharing for the Leader and Cabinet Members and how would those roles be accountable as a job share and how this would work. Councillor M. Evans mentioned the elections moving from a 4 to a 5-year term but it was thought that this was already agreed and also in relation to the 2 voting systems- Majority or a Single Vote, do the Council decide on this prior to the elections.
The Head of Law and Regulation stated that job sharing was in the legislation and was part of the Diversity/Equality principles and the legislation enabled it for executive officers and members. In relation to the point on the voting system, when Welsh Government was consulted, we were not in favour of this regarding first past the post or proportional representation as it was felt that it was too divisive and too confusing. However, it was in the legislation and it was for ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
Date of next Meeting
22 July 2021 at 10am
22 July 2021 at 10am
Webcast of Committee