Agenda and minutes

Democratic Services Committee - Thursday, 22nd July, 2021 10.00 am

Contact: Gareth Price  Head of Law and Regulation

No. Item




Apologies received from Councillor C. Evans, Councillor P. Hourahine and Councillor C. Townsend.


Declarations of Interest




Minutes of the Last Meeting 29 April 2021 pdf icon PDF 123 KB


The minutes of the last meeting were agreed and approved as an accurate record.


Local Government & Elections (Wales) Act 2021 - Implementation

Verbal update from the Democratic Services Manager



The Head of Law and Regulation introduced Leanne Rowlands the new Democratic Services Manager to the committee and informed members that she would assume the role of Head of Democratic Services and will be accountable to the Democratic Services Committee in terms of governance support and democratic processes. Following on from the previous meeting, the two items on the agenda are interconnected matters on where the council is with the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021 and the Public Participation Strategy, and the New Working Model with its implications for the new incoming Members.


The Democratic Services Manager provided members with a verbal update on the matter through presentation. The lead officer highlighted the two requirements of the legislation regarding public participation and engagement:-


s.39 - Duty to encourage local people to participate in local government decision making to include the making of decisions in partnership or in conjunction with any other person

s.40 - Prepare and publish a strategy on encouraging people to participate (as above) and review the strategy following every local government election. Members were advised that the strategy must be in place before May 2022.


The Council has carried out some work in advance with the participation element of the act. The officers in the working group have been focusing on the 5 requirements on the road mapping document with clear links to equality plans and previous strategies. Members were informed that these officers are considering what the council already has in place on how residents can make representations and access meetings and decisions, such as the website, digital forms, complaints.


Panels such as the citizen and youth panels are deemed useful forums for public decision making. It was mentioned that social media accounts such as the Facebook and Twitter pages are used by the council in putting out information to the residents however the Council are looking to see where they can improve on different platforms and fill the gap to encourage engagement with the public.


The officer informed members that the council want to determine what democratic processes the residents are already aware of and how to enhance the transparency with its residents so will use this roadmap as a basis of what they might need.


The main issue that has been considered by officers, is that there are particular members of society that are hard to reach, therefore they are thinking of inclusive strategies on how to support them, encourage them to become a councillor and participate in decision-making.


It was explained that the next step will be for the council to come up with a detailed plan for public consultation, engaging with underrepresented groups and drafting the strategy for this consultation.


Head of Law and Regulation assured the committee that the officer working group are doing the leg work so the council is not starting completely from scratch on the strategy in order to build upon what the council is already doing with the support of consultation and working  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


New Working Model

Verbal update from the Democratic Services Manager



The Democratic Services Manager gave an overview of the New Working Model in order to open up dialogue for input from the Members. It was explained that the current position was that Cabinet considered the paper on 7 July which was approved in principle, pending consultation with the staff and trade unions and therefore the final report will be presented to Cabinet in autumn. Members were advised that this includes the four areas that underpin the new model and the relevance to the Democratic Services Committee.


The New Working Model considers the implications of working remotely for the staff, it covers the well-being side of the home working policy with an allowance for those allowed to work from home one day a week but the model looks to back the investment in well-being considering those especially with long term health conditions and for supporting mental health post pandemic.


With regard to the remote working, there will be different techniques to continue being engaged with a dispersed workforce.


Members were advised that within the model the council are looking at determining the optimum usage for the civic centre and council buildings for them to meet the council’s objectives. The officers are ensuring that this would meet the requirements for the public and look for opportunities to increase the usage of the building to also help with the ongoing costs and ensure flexible working opportunities.


The Democratic Services Manager assured the Committee that the Civic Centre will remain as the main administration area, zoned in particular groups of staff, meeting rooms and reception publically available. Members were informed that there are other areas that could be opened up on the premises to others and also are looking at new technology solutions such as how room bookings can be supported by the track and trace facility.


Members were informed how the council want to make sure that the equipment meets the IT needs of the council under the new working model and how it could support the development within the Digital Strategy Refresh on how hybrid meetings can be implemented.


The Committee was assured that the Members discussion will be catered for in order to meet the requirements of the Local Government Elections Act and part 3 places duty on the Council to make provisions for access to these meetings. This flexibility was intended to attract a more diverse group of members into Local Government. There are plans for hybrid meetings to be in place for next year as the council are working with the current supplier to advise on what needs to be implemented within the Council Chamber.


On a last note the officer mentioned the wellbeing of the Council’s relations with the members and acknowledged the impact of dispersed working has had on both staff and its members. It was reiterated that staff and members have the same access to e-learning and support. Therefore, the committee were asked whether the council should enhance this model as the cabinet has recently agreed  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Date of Next Meeting

21 October 2021 at 10am


In terms of the future dates, depending on how well progressed the Council is on the Public Participation Strategy, it depends on progress of the draft. It was recommended by the Head of Service that it might be useful to have an earlier meeting in September to make some progress on this legislative piece of work.


The Committee agreed to looking at future dates when the time is right.


Meeting terminated 11:40am.



Webcast of Committee