Agenda item

Draft Guidance on Constitutions (Information Only)


Gareth Price – Head of Law and Standards


The Head of Law and Standards informed the Committee that the document is a draft document issued by Welsh Government shortly before the agenda went out so it has been included for information purposes only. Therefore no decisions from the Committee are required.

Members were informed that the team would be happy to pick up questions from the Committee.


Committee raised the following points:

·       Councillor Hourahine queried if the Head of Service meant he would answer their questions directly or send them onto the Welsh Government.


The Head of Service confirmed that it depended on the type of question. If it would be comments on the draft documentation then the council would be happy to pass them on to the Welsh Government as a consultation response.


·       Councillor T. Watkins asked where the budget would come from for the political assistance role as discussed earlier.


The Head of Law and Standards stated that it would be the council paying for the political group advisers if they were minded to employ them.


·       The Member went on to ask if the council would then have to get funding from the Welsh Government for the role or if it would come out of the council budget.


In response, the Officer replied that it would come out of the staffing budget to pay for the political assistants. No additional funding for that.


·       Councillor Hourahine queried if the political adviser roles would be paid pro-rata to the number of seats.


The Head of Law and Standards advised that the group would need to have at least 10% of the Members in the council to qualify for the adviser. So as from May, with the increase in Council membership to 51 Councillors, each group would have to have at least 6 Members to be eligible for a political assistant. Subject to having sufficient members, then the 3 largest groups on the Council would be entitled to appoint a single political assistant. But it is not proportionate to the number of seats, more to the number of Members to qualify for the assistance.


·       The Chair referred to section 56 of the delegated powers and queried if this was new legislation to the council.


The Lead Officer confirmed that this is previous advice from the 2011 measure, therefore it is not new and is a restatement of previous guidance and is advisory for the council.


·       The Chair queried if the council is implementing the section 56.

 The Head of Law confirmed that section 56 is a discretionary power and the council has never implemented the delegation of decisions to non-executive members. Some councils have used this power where they have large areas and ward committees within individual communities. They have given delegated powers to the non-executive members on those ward committees. However, in Newport the scheme of delegation for individual executive decision-making was to Cabinet Members and Heads of service.


·       The Chair referred to page 35 about the co-option of non-members onto scrutiny committees and asked the officers if the council are adhering to that.


The Head of Service confirmed that the council does and has done since 2000 as it is a requirement from the Local Government Act. For instance in education, the scrutiny committee has statutory co-opted members.


·       The Chair asked if the council publishes their forward work programme.


The Head of Law and Standards stated that the Council currently does that and highlighted that in every meeting Members agree their work programme and is published as a public document and uploaded on the website.


·       With regard to joint oversee scrutiny committees; the Chair asked if the council are still doing those.


The Head of Service clarified that the council has a number of joint scrutiny committees because the more collaboration there is, then the more joint committees would be needed.

For example, regional joint scrutiny will be required for the Corporate Joint Committees and we are also looking at establishing a joint corporate scrutiny committee for the PSB which has gone regional. As more services deliver on a regional basis via collaboration; therefore there is a requirement for regional scrutiny and joint scrutiny committees with the participating councils. The Members would see more of this as the council moves toward collaboration and joint delivery of services.


·       The Chair mentioned if this has been a long term aspiration of the council coming into practice.


The Head of Law and Standards confirmed the ability to set up a joint scrutiny has been available since the previously mentioned 2011 measure. The need to set them up has developed more recently as the council moves to more regional collaboration.


·       Councillor T. Watkins asked if the individual Members could comment on the draft copy and if those comments would be sent to the Welsh Government or Newport City Council.


In response, the Head of Service informed the Member to send their comments back to the council so they can forward them on to the Welsh Government. Members were reminded that the draft copy is just a reinstatement of legislation that has been in place for years.


The council would look for comments on the technical aspects and the guidance will relate back to any part of drafting and new legislative provisions.


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