Leanne Rowlands – Democratic Services Manager
The Democratic Services Manager updated the Committee and shared the plans for the Members Induction Training for their review and comment. Members were advised of the legislative requirements in place for the Members and the work of the WLGA on a framework for Members in Wales. The Committee was informed that competency frameworks will be used for Members to help them develop.
The Lead Officer covered the principles and the methods of delivery of the training, noted that the training will have a member centred focus, and that they are looking at how to make the training as engaging as possible.
Members were informed that the training will be taken place on varying platforms, such as face to face training, workshops and e-learning modules to ensure it can be delivered accessibly. There would also be coaching and mentoring.
The Committee was advised of key dates and were informed that there will be 6 clear working days from the count to the Annual General Meeting taking place on 17 May; which is a very tight timescale for turnaround especially with new Members coming in. There will be a big undertaking to conduct core training and inductions with the equipment so the new Members can be ready for the AGM. Members were informed the AGM will be a hybrid meeting so the Democratic Services team need to provide the training as necessary so Members feel comfortable to participate in the meetings.
The Lead Officer covered the curriculum objectives, went through week by week to breakdown the training for the Members. It was summarised that there are 33 modules in total but 16 of which will be mandatory and 6 of those will be mandatory to Members in specific committees. For the rest of the Members, there will be 10 mandatory modules in total which will be broken down over a period of time and more dispersed after the first week of inductions.
The Democratic Services Manager welcomed any questions and comments from the Committee.
Committee raised the following points:
· Councillor T. Watkins queried if the Members of the Committee could have a copy of the presentation.
The Democratic Services Manager confirmed that they will distribute it and that part of the support for prospective candidates and information on training will be available. It was explained they are setting expectations for the first week as there will be lots to work around so it is important to make it clear how busy that week will be.
It was discussed that councillors and prospective candidates may have holidays booked so it would be good to warn them in advance.
· Councillor Hourahine thanked the officer for the presentation and mentioned that 3-4 Members on the Standards Committee in the past did not participate in the mandatory modules and asked if there would be sanctions introduced for those who do not participate in the same.
The Head of Service responded by confirming that the council does not have enforcement sanctions but clarified the rules, if Members do not complete the mandatory training, then they cannot sit on Planning and Licensing committees. However, there was no sanction that could be imposed if members do not undertake the mandatory Code of Conduct training. It was stressed that members are required to agree to comply with the Code of Conduct when signing their Declaration/Acceptance of Office but unfortunately there are no enforcement sanctions if they do not attend the mandatory training. Welsh Government have advised that they do not intend to change the rules before the May elections, as recommended by the Richard Penn review, to include a commitment to the training as part of the Declaration of acceptance of office. However with the Council and the Ombudsman, the Code of Conduct training is mandatory but with no means of compulsion.
Committee was informed that the council organised a number of refresher training sessions for those members but however if some did not attend, the council electronically sent them the training information.
One additional enforcement provision in the new legislation is that Leaders of the individual political groups have a personal responsibility to maintain ethical standards within their groups. Therefore they are expected to ensure their political members attend the mandatory training.
· A comment was made by Councillor M. Evans that it was good to see that the team acknowledges that less is more in the approach and mentioned that a large amount of information could be overwhelming for the Members. The Member went on to address the hybrid meeting proposal for May as he believed that restrictions may be lifted by then as the council would want face to face interaction in the civic centre and stressed this decision to put a meeting online in May was not a decision the Member would like to support.
In response, the Head of Law and Standards clarified the misunderstanding, it would be a hybrid meeting with members physically in the chambers, as they would be entitled to do so, with the option of technology to have councillors dial in remotely. There would be no requirement for the Members to dial in remotely, subject to restrictions. The “hybrid” meeting was a requirement of the new legislation and was intended to give members a personal choice about whether to attend the meeting in person or remotely. Assuming there were no Covid restrictions in place in May, then all members who wanted to come into the Council Chamber would be entitled to do so. No “decision” had been take to continue with remote meetings after May.
· Councillor M. Evans also asked if the Members could have reassurance that the log in for the e-learning courses would be straight forward as the ones arranged on the NHS log in are difficult to access for Members.
The Democratic Services Manager confirmed that they are looking into the issues for that and are putting something together.
· Councillor Townsend expressed support for Councillor M. Evans’ view on hybrid meetings and stated she would prefer to be in the civic centre as she has residents complaining about the Councillors not meeting in the council chambers. It was noted that it could be seen as a cop-out therefore noted she was keen to get back to face to face as virtual is not conducive to easy discussions. The Member went on to thank the Head of Service for the explanation.
At the end of the discussion, the Head of Service asked the Members to pass on the message to their parties that as there are 6 working days between the count and the AGM to get essential training done. Therefore requested for the Members to inform their peers that it will be a big commitment of their time on those days to sign up for the declarations of office, training on council meetings and IT equipment etc. It was noted that would be extremely helpful for the Democratic Services team if Members could make themselves available on those days.
The Chair agreed for the Members to note that time frame and to report back to their parties accordingly.