Agenda and minutes
Venue: Council Chamber, Swale House, East Street, Sittingbourne, Kent ME10 3HT
Contact: Democratic Services, 01795 417330 Senior Democratic Services Officer
Emergency Evacuation Procedure
The Chairman will advise the meeting of the evacuation procedures to follow in the event of an emergency. This is particularly important for visitors and members of the public who will be unfamiliar with the building and procedures.
The Chairman will inform the meeting whether there is a planned evacuation drill due to take place, what the alarm sounds like (i.e. ringing bells), where the closest emergency exit route is, and where the second closest emergency exit route is, in the event that the closest exit or route is blocked.
The Chairman will inform the meeting that:
(a) in the event of the alarm sounding, everybody must leave the building via the nearest safe available exit and gather at the Assembly points at the far side of the Car Park; and
(b) the lifts must not be used in the event of an evacuation.
Any officers present at the meeting will aid with the evacuation.
It is important that the Chairman is informed of any person attending who is disabled or unable to use the stairs, so that suitable arrangements may be made in the event of an emergency.
The Chairman drew attention to the emergency evacuation procedure.
To approve the Minutes of the Meeting held on19 June 2019 (Minute Nos. 57 - 61) as a correct record..
The Minutes of the Meeting held on 19 June 2019 (Minute Nos. 57 – 61 were taken as read, approved and signed by the Chairman as a correct record. A Member drew attention to paragraph two at minute no. 60, and spoke positively about the previous cooperative working of the Committee.
Declarations of Interest
Councillors should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves or their spouse, civil partner or person with whom they are living with as a spouse or civil partner. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
The Chairman will ask Members if they have any interests to declare in respect of items on this agenda, under the following headings:
(a) Disclosable Pecuniary Interests (DPI) under the Localism Act 2011. The nature as well as the existence of any such interest must be declared. After declaring a DPI, the Member must leave the meeting and not take part in the discussion or vote. This applies even if there is provision for public speaking.
(b) Disclosable Non Pecuniary (DNPI) under the Code of Conduct adopted by the Council in May 2012. The nature as well as the existence of any such interest must be declared. After declaring a DNPI interest, the Member may stay, speak and vote on the matter.
(c) Where it is possible that a fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts would conclude that there was a real possibility that the Member might be predetermined or biased the Member should declare their predetermination or bias and then leave the room while that item is considered.
Advice to Members: If any Councillor has any doubt about the existence or nature of any DPI or DNPI which he/she may have in any item on this agenda, he/she should seek advice from the Monitoring Officer, the Head of Legal or from other Solicitors in Legal Services as early as possible, and in advance of the Meeting.
No interests were declared.
The Committee is asked to consider the objectives of a Constitution Review.
The Chairman welcomed the Deputy Leader to the meeting and invited him to introduce the report.
The Deputy Leader explained that one of the objectives of the new coalition was to increase engagement with the public and parish councils in policy making. He spoke about Councillors making suggestions at an early stage of policy making, and being able to share their experience and make proposals. The Deputy Leader said there was no set way going forward but there should be a proper consultation with the public to include their ideas in policies.
In the discussion that followed, Members raised points including:
· Members would need to be mindful of the potential costs of proposals and any additional costs to the tax-payer;
· Members should look at how scrutiny worked within the different models;
· there should continue to be a separate body to hold decision-makers to account if there was no scrutiny committee;
· Local Engagement Forums (LEF’s) were stopped previously due to little public attendance - how could the public be encouraged to attend meetings?;
· support for a constitution review; and
· the Kent County Council model of Cabinet with committees worked well.
Members suggested objectives which included:
· clear lines of demarcation;
· involving more Members in decision-making;
· consideration of timeliness of decision-making;
· working more effectively with the public going forward;
· the additional burden on officer time; and
· the costs of a new system.
Members gave their personal experiences of working within different models.
The Chairman asked what were the benefits of the current system, which might be retained in the future? The Deputy Leader said that it was essential to retain a scrutinising role in any model. He spoke of the popularity of some LEF’s compared to others and welcomed suggestions on how to improve attendance and engagement with the public. The Deputy Leader said there was no pre-determined plan and all options should be considered.
The Head of Policy, Communications and Customer Services said that Scrutiny was obligatory in the Leader and Cabinet model but not in the committee structure.
The Committee is asked to consider the report on Constitution Review – Area Committees.
The Chairman opened the debate by asking the Deputy Leader what the role of area committees was? The Deputy Leader responded by saying that the coalition wanted to introduce area committees to assist with public engagement, make democracy more transparent, and facilitate a closer link to Councillors with the public. He suggested a working group could be set up to decide on the purposes of the committees, how they should be split and what their spending powers should be.
Councillor Benjamin A Martin welcomed the introduction of area committees and spoke enthusiastically on public engagement and having the tools and funds to deliver local projects. He proposed the setting up of a working group to discuss ideas and report back to the Policy Development Review Committee (PDRC). Councillor Mike Dendor seconded the proposal which Members agreed. Later in the meeting the Deputy Leader suggested that Councillor Benjamin A Martin should chair the working group and liaise with the Policy and Performance Officer in recruiting other Members, including co-opting Councillor Ingleton.
The Head of Policy, Communications and Customer Services confirmed that there was no restriction on the geographical size of an area committee.
Members raised points which included:
· Researching ways of encouraging public to attend meetings;
· should take care that parish councils and area committees were not duplicating, and the relationships between parish and town councils should be considered;
· would there be extra funding for parish councils?;
· impact on and cost of officer time;
· the public were often only interested if there was funding for schemes;
· previous LEFs did not always communicate back after questions raised;
· the use of social media to inform residents was a powerful tool;
· parish councils should be kept separate;
· guest speakers at LEFs encouraged the public to attend;
· needed to differentiate between engagement and local decision making;
· the public would welcome decisions made at local level;
· there should be more joined up working with neighbouring wards;
· Swale Borough Councillors should all be engaging with the public anyway;
· consider use of technology such as webcasting meetings to engage the public;
· there needed to be a consistent approach in all areas;
· the definition of area committees should be set;
· there should be more use of local knowledge;
· consider using parish councils to pass information onto residents;
· some smaller issues could be dealt with at local level helping to reduce workloads;
· area committees should report back to Council to consolidate shared agendas; and
· consider excluding partner organisations from attendance as this was not successful in the past.
In response to a question from a Member, the Policy and Performance Officer clarified that item 3.12 on page 12 of the report was just an example of how other organisations operated.
The Leader clarified that area committees should be viewed differently to the previous LEFs. He said that area committees must have decision-making powers from those from within that area and advised that there was no extra funding available. He suggested that as there could be no changes to contracts, only ... view the full minutes text for item 137.
Members are asked to consider the report on the Constitution Review: Models of Governance.
Councillor Lloyd Bowen proposed that the Models of Governance report be discussed after the area committee Working Group reports back to the PDRC meeting. The Chairman seconded the proposal, which Members agreed.
(1) That the Models of Governance report be considered at a future meeting.