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Subject

:

Canterbury
Structure

City

Council

Future

Committee

Director/Head of Service:

Chairman of the Commission

Decision Issues:

These matters are within the authority of the Council

Decision type:

Non-key
.

Classification:

This report is open to the public.

CCC Ward(s):

All

Summary:

This report sets out the recommendations of the
Governance Commission, which was appointed by the
Full Council at its meeting on 24 July 2014, to develop
a committee structure to deliver a Committee System of
governance from the Annual Council meeting in 2015.

To Resolve:

1) To approve and adopt the report and
recommendations of the Governance
Commission which sets out a committee
structure to deliver a Committee System of
governance from the Annual Council
meeting in 2015.
2) That this council commends this committee
structure to its successor council.
3) To publish a notice which describes the
features of the new committee system and
timescales for implementation to the
satisfaction of Chief Executive and make
this report available for inspection.

Next stage in process

Subject to the views of Full Council, the key features of
the committee system outlined in this report will be
advertised and necessary constitutional changes made
to enable the new system to operate from the Annual
Council meeting in 2015.

SUPPORTING INFORMATION

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1.

Introduction
All local authorities operated under a committee system until the Local Government
Act 2000 came into force which required most councils to adopt an Executive
system. Most of those adopted a Leader and Cabinet. The Localism Act 2011 has
since given councils the option of reintroducing a committee system if they choose to
do so. The city council has committed to adopting a committee system for
implementation at the Annual Council meeting in 2015. The resolution binds the
council to a committee system for five years from the date of the resolution.
This report sets out a proposed committee structure for implementation at the Annual
Council meeting in 2015, which has been developed by a Governance Commission.

2.

Methodology
At its meeting on 24 July 2014, the Council resolved to change its governance
arrangements to a committee system. It was also agreed that the council’s Political
Management Member Panel should act as a Commission, with an entirely
independent Chairman to develop the detailed design of how the Committee system
would operate practically.
Mr Chris Gay, who was Chief Executive for 24 years until his retirement in 1996, was
appointed to the role of Chairman by the current Chief Executive, Colin Carmichael.
The Commission Members were Councillors: Neil Baker, Simon Cook, Harry Cragg,
Michael Dixey, Rosemary Doyle, Ben Fitter, John Gilbey, Joe Howes, Alex Perkins
and John Wratten.
The tasks of the Commission for developing the new structure were agreed at the
first meeting on 8 September 2014 as follows:
-

-

-

To identify the number and names of individual committees and how will they
relate to the other committees of the council.
To identify the broad roles, responsibilities of those committees.
To identify whether, and to what extent, each committee will have power to take
decisions on matters within their area of responsibility.
To identify whether there will be an overview and scrutiny committee, and if not,
how the council’s limited statutory scrutiny duties will be met.
To identify whether there will be a mechanism for matters decided by a
committee to be referred to the Full Council or any other committee for
reconsideration.
To consider where there are perceived difficulties with public consultation and
engagement, how, if at all, this can be addressed within the new committee
system arrangements.
To consider the schemes of delegations both from council to committees and
from committees to officers.
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-

To consider how the committee system will demonstrate accountability of
decisions taken.
To review the potential costs associated with the committee system
arrangements.

The Commission subsequently held five meetings in public to develop the Committee
System structure set out in this report. To inform its recommendations, the
Commission invited participation from members of the public at its meeting, received
written representations and considered evidence from council officers and an expert
witness from the Centre for Public Scrutiny. The Commission also considered the
structures adopted by other councils that had moved to the Committee System since
2012.
3. Features of a committee system
Under a committee system, decision making flows from the full council meeting as a
body. The council can delegate (and sometimes must delegate) its functions to
politically balanced committees or officers except where regulations prescribe that a
function cannot be delegated. Committees can appoint and delegate to subcommittees and a committee or a sub-committee can delegate further to an officer.
The committee structures of councils that have chosen to return to the committee
system vary but there are some common themes. Most have a Policy Committee
(some are called Policy and Resources or Policy and Finance) in addition to service
area committees such as housing, community and environment which take decisions
on all aspects of their subject area. There do not tend to be geographic area
committees at a district council level. Very few have adopted separate overview and
scrutiny committees and none at a district level.
There are different approaches adopted by councils in that some operate a traditional
system with multiple service committees. This approach requires careful coordination between the committees to ensure strategic oversight is not lost.
Most councils have instead adopted a streamlined system which consists of two or
three service committees plus regulatory committees. This council had moved
towards the latter approach by the time the Executive system was introduced as a
result of the Local Government Act 2000.
4. Context to the proposed committee structure
The committee system that the Commission recommends must address the
democratic needs of the council. It must also oversee a substantial economic and
administrative entity. The council is an organisation which employs over 700 people
and spends approximately £120 million each year serving a population of around
150,000. It effectively runs 75 separate businesses under its umbrella covering a
diverse range of services from waste and recycling, through to food hygiene,
planning, building control and licensing pubs and taxis. These services are entirely
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unconnected to each other yet each of them requires decisions to be taken either by
councillors or officers on a daily basis for them to function effectively.
This council is quite unique in its diverse nature of coast, country and towns. It
serves three distinct major urban areas – Canterbury, Herne Bay and Whitstable – all
of similar population sizes but each with different needs and 26 parish and town
councils in the rural areas. The council owns over three per cent of the geographical
area of the district. This means the number and types of decisions taken are quite
different in scale to most other district councils.
The council is seeking to be inclusive in its decision making where that can be done
and is appropriate, whilst operating within the financial and legal framework set by
central government which can restrict the decision making options available to it.
This context has informed the following design principles which have provided the
framework for developing the outline structure set out in this report:
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-

Engagement – the committee structure should ensure that decision making is
connected to local people.
Economy – that the overall resources including the number of meetings and
workload for councillors under the committee system should aim to be no greater
than under the present Leader and Executive system and be capable of further
refinement.
Efficiency – the structure allows the council’s operations with sufficient process
both to run smoothly and to achieve timely decision making.
Effectiveness – decisions taken address issues identified as needing to be
addressed.

Economy, efficiency and effectiveness are the statutory Best Value duties which the
council, as a Best Value authority, has a duty to secure. Engagement is an
additional principle that seeks to ensure that the committee structure allows for both
councillors and members of the public to engage in the council’s democratic
processes in appropriate ways, whilst delivering the key Best Value requirements as
the overriding objective.
Representations received also suggested that the Commission should consider the
design principles of empowerment, transparency and accountability. Transparency
and accountability are already embedded in the council’s working practices and
certain standards are required in both government regulation and guidance. Such
standards will continue to apply. How far the new council is perceived to meet these
requirements will be a matter of public scrutiny when the new council reviews how
the new committee system has functioned and met expectations.
The adoption of the committee system is intended to foster empowerment by
involving more councillors directly in decision making. The Localism Act 2011 has
provided mechanisms by which community bodies of various design can seek
greater control over matters such as services, community assets and neighbourhood
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planning. The council has adopted a policy of engaging with these processes and
the new council may wish to review how that policy is working.
5. Full Council
The role of the Full Council would remain unchanged. Full Council would continue to
have responsibility for approving the budget and policy framework and decisions
outside that. The minutes of the council’s committees would be submitted to Full
Council and could be debated, but resolved decisions could not be overturned, as is
currently the case.
At the meeting on 20 October, Ed Hammond, Head of Programmes, Local
Accountability at the Centre for Public Scrutiny advised that the role of Full Council
could be developed to include a review of the policy framework at the outset of the
council year ahead to identify any upcoming matters that could benefit from a Full
Council debate. A mechanism which enabled Full Council to identify topics it wanted
to debate during the course of the year could be introduced. However, the
Commission considered that under a Committee system, motions to council which
could raise topics for debate were likely to regain their former importance as
councillors could influence decisions in a way not possible under the present
Executive system.
6. Service Committees
Under the committee system, decisions will need to be taken by a series of
committees covering the council’s different functions and made up of councillors from
all political parties reflecting the political balance of the council. Previously, it was
usual for the council’s officer and committee structure to align. However, the current
council officer structure is designed around cost, performance and customer
satisfaction rather than groupings of related functions. Since the Committee System
last operated, local government has changed and it will continue to change as
economic austerity extends into the future. In whatever structure is adopted, it is not
perceived there would be an immediate need to change the officer structure. It is
suggested that it would be more appropriate for the committees to represent the
functions relating to the council’s key policy priorities. These would also reflect
functions which may relate to one another.
At the meeting of the Commission on 20 October, the Commission considered an
assessment of the number of reports made to the council’s committees over the past
four years and the topic areas they covered. The analysis showed that there would
be a reasonably even spread of business if three service committees were
introduced as set out below. The committee names provide an indication of the
types of functional areas it is proposed they cover. Please note that the list of
functions for each committee is not intended to be exhaustive. The structure is also
set out on a chart at Appendix A.

Policy and Resources Committee
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A Policy Committee existed in the council’s previous committee system and is a key
feature of the committee structures of those councils that have reintroduced the
system since 2012.
The Policy and Resources Committee’s role could include:
-

If appropriate, taking decisions where the function demands it or where the
function does not clearly fall within the remit of one particular committee.
Approval of the council’s Corporate Plan.
Recommending a Capital and Revenue Budget to Full Council and Medium Term
Financial Strategy.
Corporate performance monitoring.
Constitutional and governance aspects of Shared Services.
Matters relating to General Purposes that are currently within the remit of the
General Purposes and Licensing Committee (e.g. staffing matters, electoral
registration, appointments to outside bodies) of the current council.

Under the present Executive system, Licensing and General Purposes functions are
combined into one General Purposes and Licensing Committee. It is suggested that
matters within the remit of General Purposes which include electoral registration
functions, health and safety at work, pensions, staffing matters and Contracts
Standing Orders be incorporated into the Terms of Reference of the proposed Policy
and Resources Committee.
The council also has an Appointment Sub-Committee and Regulatory Appeals SubCommittee that report into the General Purposes and Licensing Committee. These
Sub-Committees deal with senior council officer appointments and appeals and meet
very infrequently. Such bodies would in future report to the Policy and Resources
Committee.
The Commission also considered whether or not the proposed Policy and Resources
Committee should have a co-ordinating role with greater financial and policy making
powers than the other service committees. It was considered that there was a need
for such a committee to provide strategic oversight of policy development and
decision making. The Committee’s co-ordinating role is intended to meet the
efficiency principle as it would ensure that work programming makes the best use of
the council’s resources.
An example of how this oversight role will work in practice can be demonstrated in
the way that budget and performance monitoring will take place. Individual service
committees will consider budget and performance reports for those functions within
their terms of reference. All reports will then be submitted to the Policy and
Resources Committee together with any comments from the services committees so
that one body would have complete oversight of the budget and performance of the
council as a whole. The councillors of the Committee will be able to effectively
scrutinise the reports in a way that the way of working and the size of Full Council
would not allow.

Regeneration and Property Committee

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The functions that would be included within the remit of the Regeneration and
Property Committee include:
-

Recommending relevant policies to the Policy Committee (e.g. Corporate
Property Strategy)
Property disposals
Economic Development
Regeneration
Parking, travel and roads
Budget and performance monitoring
(A separate Planning Committee, would deal with Development Control
decisions)

Community Committee

The functions that could be included within the remit of the Community Committee
include:
-

Recommending community policies to the Policy Committee
Housing
Environment
Health and Wellbeing
Culture
Leisure
Community development
Community and voluntary sector funding
Community Safety (and community safety scrutiny)
Budget and performance monitoring

The Commission also discussed an alternative committee structure based on the
council’s officer structure. It was broadly felt it would not work as well as one
designed around functions for the following reasons:
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-

If the committee system were aligned to the officer structure, there would
potentially be greater duplication with reports needing to go to several
committees.
The officer divisions are not as easily understandable to members of the public
as are areas of the council’s activity. The majority of responses to the
Commission’s questionnaire suggested committees that addressed council
functions.
Linking the committee structure so closely to the officer structure would not allow
for individual functions to move easily between officer services.
Significant change to the officer structure could not take place without change to
the committee structure.
If the officer structure was changed, the Member expertise developed would
either be located within the wrong committee or would also need to be moved.
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-

-

Conflict could arise between individual committees due to some services being
represented on more than one committee with, for example, policy issues being
decided by one committee and operational issues by another.
There would be an increase in workload as certain reports (e.g. parking, property
and housing) would need to be considered by more than one committee.

The Commission also noted the strong representation s that the council adopts a
more inclusive system of decision making, whilst recognising the political recognising
the political realities which will follow from the election. A way in which cross party
working could be fostered without disturbing those political realities, is to invite
representatives from all parties to committee briefings. They may decide whether or
not they wish to attend.
Recommendations:
1) That the council’s services committees be aligned to the council’s
functions rather than the present officer structure.
2) That three new service committees be introduced to reflect the business of
the council: Policy and Resources, Regeneration and Property and
Community.
3) That matters relating to General Purposes (see above) be included in the
Terms of Reference of the proposed Policy and Resources Committee.
4) It is suggested to the new council that representatives from all parties be
invited into committee briefing meetings.
7. Licensing Committee
A Licensing Committee is statutory and is required primarily to determine individual
licensing applications. Beyond that it should discharge all of the authorities licensing
functions except those of licensing policy. It has also specifically been given functions
in the Gambling Act 2005.
Presently the work of the Licensing Committee is combined with that of the General
Purposes Committee.1 However, once the authority moves into a committee system
that amalgamation of functions into one committee is more difficult to justify under the
terms of the legislation. In a committee system it will be important to distinguish
between the different roles of different committees. There will be no executive body
with the task of taking the leading role within the council. The focus of the Licensing
Committee would be on its licensing functions. On policy issues the Licensing
Committee will have to give its views to the Community Committee if time allows,
ensuring there is both a technical consideration of the policy by one committee and
the broader community perspective and recommendation to Council by another.
A new Licensing Committee will, apart from its annual meeting, not have a scheduled
rota of meetings but will meet as and when it is needed. At the outset of the year, it
will appoint panels to make decisions on licensing applications. Those functions
1

It is suggested elsewhere in this report that the former General Purposes Committee Functions are
incorporated into the work of the Policy and Resources Committee.

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which relate to the determination of other licensing applications (hackney carriages
for example) could also be delegated to this committee under the general power of
delegation to committees in the Local Government Act 1972.
5) Recommendation to Full Council: that a Licensing Committee be
established to appoint panels to determine licensing applications and to
carry out related licensing duties.
8. Planning Committee
The Planning Committee which deals with development management and related
decisions is not a statutory committee. However, the requirements imposed on the
council means it is essential to have a specialist committee to determine planning
applications. For similar reasons to separating the Licensing Committee from the
Community Committee, the Planning Committee should stand alone from the
Regeneration and Property Committee to give it focus and lessen the chance of
conflict of interest.
6) Recommendation to Full Council: that the Planning Committee continue
under the Committee System.
9.

Audit, Performance Standards and Governance
A Committee or number of Committees needs to cover the following functions which
have grown since the last committee system:
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Internal and external audit
Signing off the council’s accounts
Standards – dealing with the code of conduct and complaints arising under it
Governance – relating the political management of the council and how it
organises itself.
Performance monitoring

Audit: Currently, the council has a Scrutiny and Audit Committee whose Members
receive training and is non-decision making. It makes recommendations to the
Executive or other committees as appropriate.
As the work of the Audit Committee was combined with that of the Scrutiny
Committee in 2012 to become a non-decision making body, it became necessary to
establish a separate Accounts Committee which meets once a year to approve the
accounts and is decision making in that respect. Under a new committee system
there would be no requirement for a scrutiny function so the Audit Committee could
stand alone as a decision making body with the power to sign off the Accounts, thus
negating the need for a separate Accounts Committee.
Performance: the Scrutiny and Audit Committee currently has a performance
monitoring role. Under a committee system it is suggested that quarterly service
performance monitoring is reported to the relevant committee. The Policy and
Resources Committee would have a corporate performance monitoring role and
consider the annual performance report.
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Standards: the Standards Committee comprises both city councillors and co-opted
parish councillors. When the statutory code of conduct was abolished in 2012, it was
suggested that Standards could be combined with Audit as a committee solely of city
council Members. However, the parish councils strongly supported a council
committee on which they were represented, as the city council’s Monitoring Officer
also has responsibility for the parish councils. The role of Parish Councillors on the
Standards Committee suggests that it should remain as a standalone committee.
Governance: the Political Management Member Panel (PMMP) serves to discuss
and develop governance issues, particularly technical ones, with officers in an
informal way before making recommendations to Full Council or relevant committee.
The Commission considered establishing a governance working party which would
meet in private but representation received during the course of the review
suggested there was a preference to debating governance matters in a public. In
particular, it was felt that the Commission format had worked well where issues which
would normally have been debated in private were done so in public instead. The
Commission therefore recommends that a Governance Sub-Committee is
established so these matters can in future be considered in a public forum.
Recommendations to Full Council:
7) That the Standards Committee be retained under the Committee System.
8) That an Audit and Governance Committee be introduced.
9) That a Governance Sub-Committee which makes recommendations to its
parent Audit and Governance Committee be introduced.
10. Overview and Scrutiny
Overview and Scrutiny is a feature of the Leader and Executive system, designed to
provide checks and balances to more centralised decision making. The council’s
overview and scrutiny function has evolved since its introduction. Presently there is
an Overview Committee which considers matters in advance of the Executive and a
Scrutiny and Audit Committee, the scrutiny element of which focuses on scrutinising
decisions that have been taken by the Executive. The Scrutiny and Audit Committee
also manages a rolling programme of scrutiny reviews.
Whilst scrutiny is a feature of the Executive system, it can operate in a committee
system in broadly three ways:
1) A standalone scrutiny committee. This would have the responsibility for
examining the work of other committees and undertaking the council’s statutory
scrutiny requirements with similar powers such a committee has under the
Executive system.
2) Scrutiny is embedded into the work of individual committees with each committee
responsible for monitoring budgets and performance relating to its functions. In
addition, members of the committee could highlight areas of concern and request
reports on issues relating to their functions in much the same way as the present
Scrutiny and Audit Committee does.

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3) Scrutiny is conducted by Full Council whereby a council-wide debate on an
aspect of the work or report of a particular committee could take place. This
option would present a legal concern that the council could be debating issues
without having had access to all the relevant material. Therefore, if there was to
be a debate at Full Council, Members would need to consider all material
associated with the issue which would suggest that this type of scrutiny could not
take place as a matter of routine.
Most councils that have adopted a committee system since 2012 have chosen to
embed scrutiny within the work of each committee. The exception is Brighton and
Hove Council which has a standalone scrutiny committee, but as a unitary authority
has wider statutory scrutiny powers (health and flood scrutiny) than those of district
councils.
District councils have just one statutory scrutiny requirement under a committee
system. That is to scrutinise crime and disorder issues at least once each year.
Currently the Scrutiny and Audit Committee carries out this requirement by
examining the performance of the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership on a
six-monthly basis. Rather than establish a separate committee to carry out this duty,
crime and disorder scrutiny could be embedded into the work of the relevant service
committee’s terms of reference. The Community Committee could carry out this role.
It is also suggested scrutiny of performance and budgets takes place within the
proposed committees. These checks and balances will also be enhanced by the
retention of the Area Member Panels, suggested elsewhere in this report. A role of
the Area Member Panels is to make recommendations on local service delivery by
keeping watching brief on the performance and decisions taken by the committees.
The Commission also considered whether there should be the facility to call-in
decisions under the new committee system and this is dealt with later in this report
under Decision Review.
10) Recommendation to Full Council: That the council’s statutory scrutiny
duties (namely crime and disorder scrutiny) should be embedded into the
terms of reference of the Community Committee.
11) Recommendation to Full Council: that performance and budget monitoring
falls within the remit of the relevant service committee.

11. Area Member Panels/Committees
The five Area Member Panels (AMPs) that form part of the council’s current structure
of committees under the Leader and Executive system, did not exist under the
previous committee system. They were introduced to allow Members to express
views on services relating to their particular part of the district to the Executive. In
addition, the AMPs have served to promote local democracy and their engagement
role had developed over time. The AMPs are generally well attended by members of
the public and are a means of engaging residents and community groups in the work
of the council at the most local level. The Commission considered whether the
engagement role of AMPs should be extended but considered that the current terms
of reference already allowed for each AMP to regularly review and set its own ways
of working.
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12) Recommendation to Full Council: that the work of the Area Member Panels
is supported and should continue under the committee system subject to
the next recommendation.
A further consideration for this Commission in relation to area working is that in April
2013, Full Council considered a report looking at whether a Community
Governance Review should be carried out to look at the option of creating town
councils in the district. It resolved: “That the interest in initiating a Community
Governance Review be reassessed following any Electoral Review in 2013.” A
Community Governance Review in the near future would be timely as guidance
suggests that local authorities should be encouraged to review their electoral
representational arrangements every 10-15 years2. The last full review of the
Canterbury district was carried out in the late 1980s.
The Electoral Review is due to complete in December 2014 for implementation at the
local elections in May 2015. It is therefore suggested this council recommend a
Community Governance Review for the district to the new council.
If town councils were created as a result of the review, it would clearly affect the
council’s own arrangements for area working and local engagement. It would
therefore be sensible to review the role of the AMPs in parallel with any Community
Governance Review. The review would also consider the current structure of parish
councils across the whole of the district.
13) Recommendation to Full Council: That the new council in 2015 be asked to
commence a district-wide Community Governance Review, and that the
role of the Area Member Panels be reviewed in parallel.
12. Other meetings
Joint Transportation Board
The Joint Transportation Board (JTB) is primarily a consultative body of Kent County
Council. So, the principle of the JTB’s future is for the County Council to decide,
although the city council could also choose to withdraw. The JTB usefully provides a
forum for city and parish councillors to discuss highways functions which are mainly a
county function but which have local public interest. As a body primarily of the
County Council, the work of the JTB could not be incorporated into the work of a
service committee.
14) Recommendation to Full Council: that the Joint Transportation Board
continue under the committee system.
Whitstable Harbour Board

2

Department for Communities and Local Government and Local Boundary Commission for England Guidance,
March 2010.

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Prior to 2002, Whitstable Harbour activities fell within the remit of the Property and
Engineering Committee. Following a Best Value Review recommendation, the
Harbour Board was introduced in 2002/03 to give strategic direction to the
management of the harbour and its property portfolio. It has the status of a dedicated
council committee with delegated authority from the Council to make certain
decisions relating to the Harbour. The Board comprises both elected councillors and
independent members with relevant expertise.
15) Recommendation to Full Council: that the Whitstable Harbour Board
continue under the committee system.
Working parties, sub-committees
Working parties were a feature of the previous committee system which have also
been used by this council under the Leader and Executive system.
The sub-committees that operated under the previous committee system were
specific to the business of the council as it was then. For example, the Housing
Appeals and Central Services Sub-Committees, neither of which are now likely to be
relevant following operational changes. Sub-Committees can either be selfcontained with their own decision making powers, or they may make
recommendations for their parent committee to resolve.
It will be for the individual committees to appoint sub-committees to address the
business needs of the council as necessary. Similarly it will be for the new council to
establish the working parties it needs at the beginning of the council year and
reappoint or disband them annually thereafter. In order to ensure resources are
managed appropriately, it is suggested the Policy and Resources Committee could
authorise any working parties that need to be established during the course of the
year.
It is suggested that the working parties to be recommended to the new council be
considered once the Commission’s work to develop a committee structure has
concluded.
Whist co-opting external representatives onto working groups and review panels is
possible under the current Constitution, it has rarely occurred. In fact, the last
notable example was when a representative of the Kent Association of Parish
Council’s was co-opted onto the 2004 Parish Contributions Scrutiny Review. The
purpose of the co-option was to improve the deliberations of the review panel and act
as a link between the review process and the parish councils in the district. Instead,
external advice has been regularly sought through expert witness sessions during
reviews. Representations received in response to the Commission’s survey
described the expertise available locally and indicated there could be considerable
scope for greater co-option onto sub-committees, working parties and review panels
than had been previously.
16) Recommendation to Full Council: that the process outlined above for
appointing sub-committees and working parties be commended to the new
council.
17) Recommendation to Full Council: that the Political Management Member
Panel considers the working parties to be recommended to the new council
following the conclusion of this Commission.
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18) Recommendation to Full Council: that external representatives be co-opted
onto working groups, sub-committees and review panels where external
expertise would improve deliberations.
13. Best Value Reviews
Best Value Reviews (BVRs) were a feature of the previous Committee System,
intended to focus on the best value duty of continuously improving efficiency,
economy and effectiveness. In 2012 the council decided to reintroduce a version of
Best Value Reviews as they had been particularly valued previously and were seen
as a way of extending the role of non-Executive councillors. Whilst our present BVR
programme does not operate in exactly the same way as it did under the Committee
system, BVRs provide a mechanism for taking a time limited look at specific issues
and making recommendations for improving them.
Previously the programme of Best Value Reviews was overseen by a sub-committee
of the policy committee. If BVR’s were to continue then it is likely the Policy and
Resources Committee would co-ordinate an annual programme with individual
committees making recommendations on review topics. By having a co-ordinating
role, the Policy Resources Committee would have oversight of the programme and
ensure resources were managed appropriately.
Whilst BVRs have been valued by this council, they are not necessary for the new
committee structure to operate from day one. It is therefore suggested that it be left
for the new council to decide whether or not to carry out a programme of BVRs.
19) Recommendation: that a report be brought to the new council for it to
decide whether Best Value Reviews should continue under the new
committee system.

14. Delegation of powers
Delegation to officers: the scheme of delegation is designed to allow the council to
run effectively and efficiently on a day-to-day basis, whilst Members have the role of
taking significant decisions and developing the policies of the council to which the
officers work. The scheme of delegation is set out at Appendix B.
When the new Executive system was introduced, the scheme of delegation to
officers was largely transferred across. The delegated powers have been updated
and refined over the years and have also incorporated new policy areas such as
licensing but there have been no fundamental changes in approach. The delegated
powers are reviewed annually and there has been very little comment or concern
over the years.
20) Recommendation to Full Council: that the current scheme of delegation be
continued under the committee system.
Delegation to committees: The council sets the budget framework each year.
Decisions that fall within the budget framework can be taken by committees.
Decisions outside of the budget framework would need to be approved by council.
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21) Recommendations to Full Council:

Expenditure up to £200,000 per decision and within the budget
framework could be approved by a Service Committee;
Expenditure over £200,000 per decision would need to be referred to the
Policy and Resources Committee for approval with unlimited
expenditure within the budget framework.
Expenditure outside of the budget framework would need to be
approved by Full Council.

15. Frequency of meetings and urgency provisions
It is suggested that the service committees meet approximately every six weeks
initially, although this will need to be reviewed and the frequency increased or
reduced as appropriate to meet the business needs of the council. Existing
committees such as the Planning Committee which are recommended to be carried
forward to the new system, would continue to meet with the same regularity as they
do now.
Provisions for taking urgent decisions must be incorporated into the arrangements. It
is suggested they should only be used where failure to take the decision would, or
would be likely to, harm the interests of the council and/or public. Previously, the
council had Executive Sub-Committees whose task it was to take urgent decisions
between meetings. They were flexible as to whether they would meet during the day
or the evening. It is suggested these sub-committees are revived. Sometimes it
might be appropriate to convene a special meeting of a sub-committee, other times a
joint meeting between a service sub-committee and the policy/sub-committee might
be needed where a decision falls outside the required budget or policy framework of
the service committee.
Where it is not practical for a meeting to be convened, the Chief Executive may also
take an urgent decision and if possible, consult the chair of the relevant committee
and/or monitoring officer.
In order for a decision to be classified urgent, the following criteria could be applied:
a)
b)
c)
d)
e)
f)
g)

A service not being provided;
The council breaking the law or financial rules;
The public being put at serious risk of harm;
The council suffering significant financial loss;
Consultation deadlines not being met;
In the event of a major incident;
Any other unforeseen circumstance which makes delay imprudent.

22) Recommendation to Full Council: that the procedure and criteria for
allowing urgent decisions to be taken be introduced.
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16. Committee size/Member and officer workload
Currently the city council has a broad representation of councillors of working age
and in designing the new system, it needs to ensure that the number of meetings that
councillors would be expected to attend is not so onerous that it prevents a broad
spectrum of people from standing as councillors. If there were to be an increase in
the total number of meetings held from the present system then there would be
resource implication for both Members and officers, particularly in light of the
reduction in councillors from 50 to 39 which will coincide with the implementation of
the new committee system.
Based on the structure outlined in this report, 39 councillors would share 73 places
on 9 committees.3 An average of just under 2 committee places per councillor. Each
councillor would also attend 1 Area Member Panel, Full Council and potentially SubCommittees and/or working parties.
For comparison under the current Leader
Executive System, 50 councillors share 109 places on 11 committees, an average of
just over 2 committees per councillor (plus Full Council, AMPs, scrutiny and Best
Value Reviews).4
There would be a total of 93 meetings a year (plus Full Council and AMP meetings).
This is based on the committees meeting on the following number of occasions:

Committee

Approximate number of meetings
required5

Planning

13

Planning Sub (primarily for enforcement)

6

Licensing Sub

26

Licensing

2

Policy

8

Community

8

Regeneration and Property

8

Joint Transportation Board

4

Whitstable Harbour Board

6

Audit and Governance

4

Governance Sub-Committee

4

3

Analysis of Green Card regular meetings. Licensing &Licensing Sub and Planning/Planning Sub, Audit &
Governance/Governance Sub counted as 1 committee. Appeals, Regulatory Appeals and Decision Review not
counted as meet rarely and not on current green card 1.9 committees
4
2.2 committees per councillor.
5
Approximate number of meetings is based on assessment of current workload and assuming service
committees will meet on six weekly basis.

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Standards

4

Total:

93 meetings

The approximate number of meetings when compared to the last year of the previous
committee structure and the council’s current Leader Executive system is as follows:

Year

Number of meetings

2015 onwards
2013/14
2001/02

93
109
84

The size of the future committees will be largely dictated by the political balance of
the council which will not be known until after the Local Elections next year. The
membership of committees will be subject to any necessary adjustments to achieve
political balance but when the Commission considered the issue, there was a view
that each committee should consist of at least nine members. It was important to
allow for broad representation and wide debate but this would need to be balanced
against work load on which issues it will be for the new council to take a view.
Membership of nine would mean the average number of committee places each
member held would be broadly the same as under the present Leader and Executive
system (although the workload for individual councillors under an Executive system is
not as evenly balanced as a committee system allows). More than nine could
increase Member workload so the new council will need to find a suitable balance
between workload and representation on committee.
23) Recommendation to Full Council: Each committee should comprise of nine
or more Members. If the new council considers it to be achievable, the
Policy and Resources Committee should be encouraged to have a larger
membership to allow a broad representation of political groups and
geographical areas. A size of 13 Members is suggested for the Policy and
Resources Committee by this Commission.
17. Shared Services
Since the council last had a committee system of political management it has entered
into the shared delivery of services with other authorities which will carry on under
the new system. These shared working arrangements have led to the creation of two
committees; the East Kent Joint Arrangements Committee and the East Kent
(Housing Management) Committee.
The East Kent Joint Arrangements Committee is shortly to be replaced by a new joint
committee between Canterbury City Council, Dover District Council and Thanet
District Council. Kent County Council and Shepway District Council are not actively
participating in the sharing of services and will formally leave the present
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arrangement when the new committee comes into effect. Services delivered are
human resources, information communications technology, revenues and benefits
and the contact centre dealing with the various ways the council interacts with the
public.
With the creation of the arms-length management company, East Kent Housing, a
substantial amount of housing activity was passed to this new company controlled by
its corporate members – Canterbury City Council, Dover District Council, Shepway
District Council and Thanet District Council. The East Kent (Housing Management)
Committee oversees the workings of East Kent Housing and performs the important
role of deciding on certain key matters when the parties are in dispute. This has
proved to be extremely rare.
Where a Member is placed on a joint committee they have a vote on that joint
committee and the decisions of that committee will bind the council and the other
participating councils.
18. Partnerships
A feature of modern local government is partnership working more generally.
Although the city council has never had individual executive member decision
making, individual members of the Executive have attended partnership meetings.
The Leader of the council, as the source of Executive power, could, if the occasion
demanded it bind the council by his decision. In the new arrangements it must be
assumed committee chairmen will take these partnership roles. An individual
member in a committee system cannot take a decision that binds the council.
Therefore, either officers will need to be empowered to make decisions if necessary
at these partnership bodies; or alternatively the chairman will have to have the
necessary skills to know how far he or she can go in indicating a decision that his
council would be likely to support; or he or she will have to make sure they have the
necessary decisions in place beforehand which can then be relayed to the
partnership.
No recommendations are required from the commission on these matters. The
change to the committee system simply presents issues which must be worked
through on a practical basis.

19. Decision review (or call-in)
A process could be introduced for controversial decisions taken by a committee to be
reviewed. Under the council’s previous committee system, the Policy Committee
was able to review and in effect ‘call-in’ decisions taken by another committee but not
yet implemented. The Commission felt it was important to have a mechanism for
reviewing decisions but this should power should not rest with the Policy and
Resources Committee.
The Commission also discussed whether Decision Review should fall to the Full
Council. However, the size of Full Council and frequency of its meetings would mean
that decisions could be slowed down to such an extent that they were not taken in a
timely fashion without a special meeting being called. It may be expected in certain
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cases that a decision will be referred to Full Council but this is likely to be on an
exceptional basis.
A further consideration in developing a Decision Review mechanism was to ensure
that decisions are not reviewed by those that have taken them. Some decisions will
be resolved by individual service committees and others will be ratified by the Policy
and Resources Committee to ensure strategic oversight is maintained. The
membership of the committee carrying out Decision Review should therefore be
drawn from across the council with sufficient named substitutes to ensure the
Members reviewing a decision are not the same as those that took it.
It is therefore proposed that a Decision Review Committee be created which would
meet as necessary to decide whether to:
a) Refer a decision back to the committee that took the decision;
b) Refer a decision to the Full Council for consideration; or
c) That no further action was necessary.
The Decision Review Committee would be convened only when certain conditions
had been met as follows:
-

The review is requested within three working days of the day on which the
decision was published;
The request is made in writing to the Monitoring Officer that the decision be
reviewed and the request is signed by at least 14 Members of the Council.

The Commission also considered that to ensure Decision Review did not cause
unnecessary delay to decision making and was only reserved for exceptional
circumstances, a set of criteria should be introduced to assess any potential review.
A decision could be reviewed if there was evidence:
-

-

The decision had not met the normal requirements for decision making (for
example financial or equalities implications not being considered or
inadequate consultation).
The decision had been taken outside the Budget and Policy Framework.
The decision was not supported by a proper reason explaining why it had
been taken.

A decision could not be reviewed if:
-

It has been certified as urgent in accordance with the council’s urgency
procedures.
It has been taken by a regulatory committee of the council (Planning or
Licensing).

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A Committee may also withdraw a decision where the decision is thought to be
unsafe on the advice of one of the statutory officers. The decision would not be
implemented until the Committee had been given the opportunity to reconsider.
Whilst this committee will have a function akin to scrutiny, it will not be a statutory
overview and scrutiny committee, the need for which was examined earlier in this
report.
24) Recommendation to Full Council: that decisions that meet the necessary
criteria and conditions set out above be referred to a Decision Review
Committee, whose membership would be drawn from across the council.
20. Consultation
One of the Commission’s tasks was to assess where there were perceived difficulties
with public consultation and engagement, how, if at all, this could be addressed
within the new committee system arrangements. The Commission considered the
council’s different approaches to consultation at its meeting on 26 September which
include the Annual Residents’ Survey, Community e-panel, questionnaires and online
surveys, focus groups and public speaking at committee.
The council uses a wide variety of consultation techniques which often go above and
beyond the minimum requirements. However, improvements could be made in
communicating how decisions have been informed by consultation and engagement
processes. Representations were received from members of the public that they
wished to be consulted at the earliest opportunity in the development of council policy
or the design of a service. They also suggested the limitations and parameters the
council were required to work within should be set out more clearly when consulting
on specific topics in order to manage the expectations of what was possible.
Whilst these are issues that cannot be addressed through the design of a committee
structure, it was considered that the new council should be asked to develop a new
consultation strategy which addressed the points raised during the course of this
Commission.
25) Recommendation to Full Council: that the Council elected in 2015 be
requested to develop a new consultation strategy.
21. Speaking rights
Members of the public can speak at council committees to inform debate and
decision making. The usual speaking right allow for individuals (speaking on behalf
of themselves or organisations) to speak for three minutes, subject to notice having
been given to Democratic Services in advance. The exception is the Licensing SubCommittee where speaking rights are limited to relevant interested parties.

20

Representations to the Commission have highlighted a concern that the provisions
for speaking at council committees can be restrictive and do not provide an
opportunity for further points to be made later in the meeting.
Public speaking rights are very important. However, a restriction on the time allowed
for speakers ensures fairness for all that want to have their say and avoids
excessively lengthy meetings. There are also other ways that members of the public
can make representations for example, in writing, social media or by approaching
individual ward members directly in advance of an issue being debated at committee.
The number of registered speakers does vary depending on the committee and issue
being debated. Whilst a high number of registered speakers would make it
necessary to impose the three minute rule (for example the recent Planning
Committee meeting where 45 people registered to speak), but there may also be
occasions where at the discretion of the committee chair, a relaxation of the time limit
could be appropriate to allow for a longer contribution or further comment during
debate. The appropriateness of such a relaxation would be very much dependent on
the committee and therefore it is suggested that each committee be recommended to
review their speaking and engagement arrangements six months into the operation
of the new system.
26) Recommendation to Full Council: that each committee be encouraged to
relax the time limitations for public speaking where appropriate and when
time allows. Each committee should also review its speaking and
engagement arrangements six months into the operation of the new
system.

22.

Relevant Council Policy/Strategies/Budgetary Documents
The Constitution of the Council.

23.

Consultation planned or undertaken
To inform its recommendations, the Commission invited participation from members
of the public at its meetings, received written representations and considered
evidence from council officers and an expert witness from the Centre for Public
Scrutiny.

24.

Options available with reasons for suitability
(a) To accept or reject the report and recommendations of the Governance
Commission for a future committee structure as set out in this report.
(b) To accept the recommendations with minor modifications.

(c) To refer the report and recommendations back to the Governance Commission
for further consideration.
21

25.

Reasons for supporting option recommended, with risk assessment

The recommendations set out in this report have been developed by the Governance
Commission who have considered the evidence, public opinion and necessary legal
requirements associated with the development of a new committee structure.
The council must have a new committee structure in place to reflect the council’s
commitment to change to a committee system of governance from the Annual
Council meeting in 2015. Accepting the recommendations set out in this report will
enable the council comply with the requirements of the Localism Act 2011 in that it
must as soon as practicable after passing the resolution to change to a committee
system of governance, make the provisions of the new governance arrangements
available for inspection; and a notice which describes the features of the new system
and timescales for implementation.
26.

Implications
Financial Implications – one off transitional costs and officer resources in designing
and implementing the committee structure. The committee structure proposed in this
report does not envisage an increased Member or officer work load but the on-going
costs will be dependent on the number and frequency of meetings needed to
effectively operate the new system. This will need to be kept under review once the
new structure is in operation.
Legal Implications – any committee structure must operate within the legal
framework of local government and in particular, the Local Government Act 1972, the
Local Government Act 2000 and the Localism Act 2011.
Staffing/resource – an assessment of the potential workload for councillors brought
about by the proposed committee structure has been made and is incorporated into
the detail of this report. Whilst the number of meetings envisaged to deliver the
system has been identified as not being higher than the number of meetings required
for the current Leader and Executive system, it will be important to monitor whether
any significant change has been brought about once the system is in operation. The
review of the committee structure towards the end of the first calendar year of
operation will provide an opportunity to make an assessment of how both the
Member and officer resources required compare to those needed to deliver the
present system.
Equalities – an assessment of the committee structure proposed against equalities
legislation and the council’s current operation has been made and no specific
impacts have been identified.

27.

Conclusions
The draft structure set out in this report is intended to enable the council to function
effectively from the Annual Council meeting in 2015. It will be a new way of working
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and consequently adjustments may need to be made once in operation. As
highlighted by the Centre for Public Scrutiny it will be important to review the
structure once it has bedded in to ensure it fulfils the design principles and
expectations of the public referred to in this report.
27) Recommendation to Full Council: that the new council be strongly
encouraged to review how the committee structure is working in practice
towards the end of the first calendar year of operation.
As Chairman of the Commission, I am satisfied that this report represents both the
deliberations and conclusions of the Commission and I recommend it to the Council.

Dr Christopher Gay MBE LLB

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