Agenda item

Annual Report of the Democratic Services Committee


The Head of Law and Regulation informed the Committee that this is the draft report for the Committee which they present to Council on the work of the committee from over the last 12 months and the work programme up until next May 2022. The draft annual report includes information about memberships, activities and the work programme for the next few months and touches on a lot of work that the Democratic Services Manager will discuss in the later agenda items.


The Committee made the following comments:


The Chair noted it was a fair appraisal and asked the Committee if it met with their acceptance.


·         Councillor Hourahine noted that on page 32 on the second paragraph; it states that the Committee felt the induction was comprehensive but there was concern raised about the intensity of training with 37 modules being developed. The Member asked if the Committee is concerned about the training as he could not recall having that discussion.


In response, the Lead Officer confirmed it was recorded within the minutes as such. The general view was that it was welcome, Councillor Matthew Evans was concerned about the number of modules so discussed that the main thing was to identify which were mandatory and specific to individual roles so they can undertake certain roles. Although there was an initial concern – the team explained to the Committee that Members didn’t have to attend all of the modules; that is why they wanted to clarify which ones would be mandatory or specific to their committee role.


·         The Chair of the Committee mentioned that perhaps it should be included to state that not all modules are mandatory.


The Head of Service clarified that it confirms that point at the end of the report.


·         Councillor Thomas noted that new Councillors joining will be going into the post with not much insight. Therefore the complexity of the role needs to be clearly explained with full support provided to them to take up training opportunities that are appropriate to their roles.


·         Discussion ensued and the Chair suggested if they could mention in the draft report that the training is optional for the experienced Members, as there would be no need for them to do it.


·         Councillor Thomas noted that all measures must be taken to ensure that it will be a simplified route map for how the Members engage with the training.


In response, the Head of Service confirmed they were happy to take on board the Committee’s comments.


Part of the work programme will be for 6-8 months’ time with the programme of inductions, there are messages that the team could feed back to potential elected Members. It was noted this was more of a reflective view of what the Committee discussed at that meeting.


·         The Chair suggested that with the draft report, the officers could bear in mind the comments from the Committee and the Monitoring Officer could write a form of words to introduce this to council, which could be something they can reinforce in introductory comments.


·         Councillor Thomas also commented that almost a decade ago the Members training was very sparse, and observed that there has been a great significance of training introduced from the last two administrations. Introducing something well packed to upskill the Councillors is good and shows there has been a culture shift.


Councillor Clarke also commented how the new technology facilitates a broader degree of training and availability for that.


The Head of Service responded that the Member training development was in its infancy many years ago but has significantly developed over the past two introductions. The next one will be more intensive again. This is because they can now identify what specific skill sets that Councillors need. In terms of what Councillors require for their specific roles and identifying how to develop Members’ skills.


The introduction of e-learning has helped, so people do not have to come into the civic every time they do a course.


Comments from the Committee will be taken on board but for face to face learning; the Democratic Services team want to get the balance right on how they deliver the training and what the requirement for that is.


·         Councillor Giles advised that from starting as a Councillor around 18 years ago; there was no training available. From then, there has been a huge improvement with new cohorts coming in from differing professional backgrounds. Councillor Giles noted that it is good to see the training develop and would be a good idea to pick and choose for the specific needs.

The long standing Councillors could see the ‘start from scratch’ approach as off-putting, therefore a more sophisticated system would be a good idea.


Councillor Giles then asked if there is something between the online and face to face modules. Sessions where people can come into a Committee meeting for training but they do not have to physically be present. There would be issues with Members with different circumstances/being unwell so the mixed training could tie in with the equality and attendance issue.


The Head of Service confirmed that once the Council Chambers are set up for hybrid meetings, they could provide training on that basis. For example, mandatory training could be held in the Chambers for those who can come in. The hybrid facility could be accessed for the Members who are unable to make it in. The hybrid function takes delivery for training to another level and definitely avoids the issue of availability.

It was mentioned that a few training sessions could be a half-day session – therefore hybrid meeting attendance could be down to personal choice.


·         Councillor Watkins agreed the prior point that it is a good idea and mentioned that there needs to be an ongoing period of training over the Council period as Committees change after a period of time.

This ongoing training could be specific to another committee, for instance, for Planning Committee; the Members would have to go through training on the planning system again. If a new Member comes in three years down the line in a new term; they would need to attend the training. The Member mentioned that this applies to any committee that requires further training.


In response, the Head of Service agreed and confirmed there will be a focus on introductory training come May 2022 for the intake of Councillors to get them up to speed with how the decision making process works. The roles for different Committees going forward means that the Members individual training needs should be constant and not just within a month in terms of inductions as it is clear that Members roles can change. For instance, one could become Chair and would need specialist training in that, including chairing hybrid meetings.


The Lead Officer reiterated the point of individual training plans for Members.

Similar to Council staff having a performance review every year; where they learn the areas to improve and develop as an individual. Applying the point for Members; there could be training and a development plan over the four year period; not just following the new election period.


·         The Chair of the Committee made the suggestion of the role of mentoring would be needed with the change of Committees. In terms of new Councillors joining; the Chair queried if education could be ongoing.

The Member stressed that mentoring would be essential, especially for new Councillors. Especially with more senior roles; would not underestimate the value that Members get in terms of the representative role. For example, Licensing Committee, being Chairs of Scrutiny Committees with questioning skills. Mentoring comes in terms of the community leaders and suggested that it could be critical as officers cannot replicate the training, as they are not involved in ward work. Therefore the Member asked if mentoring by senior Members could be critical for training.


The Chair commented on page 32 of the report, and asked if there were any other points the Committee wished to raise.


The Committee confirmed they were happy with the report as it stands.


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