Agenda and minutes
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The Chairman explained that the meeting would be conducted in accordance with the Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panel (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority Policy and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 No. 392.
In welcoming all Members and members of the public, the Chairman explained which Swale Borough Council officers were in attendance.
To approve the Minutes of the Meeting held on 14 October 2020 (Minute Nos. 187 - 190) as a correct record, subject to recording that Councillor Corrie Woodford was present at the meeting.
The Minutes of the Meeting held on 14 October 2020 (Minute Nos. 187 – 190) were taken as read, approved and signed by the Chairman as a correct record subject to recording that Councillor Corrie Woodford was present at the meeting.
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 meeting 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.
Change in order of business
The order of business was changed as minuted.
The Committee is asked to consider a Maternity Policy for Councillors.
Report added 25 November 2020.
The Deputy Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing introduced the report which proposed the inclusion of some additional paragraphs in the Members’ Allowances Scheme within the constitution to clarify the provision of parental, adoption and sickness leave for councillors. The Deputy Cabinet Member explained that the paper followed-on from one presented to Council in September 2019 where it was resolved to actively work towards improving equality and diversity, and to improve accessibility to Local Government to under-represented groups. She said the objective for the additional paragraphs was to ensure that Members could take appropriate leave when required. The Deputy Cabinet Member stated that currently 8% of councils in the country had constitutional commitments to parental leave. She highlighted the four additional proposed paragraphs for inclusion in the constitution and welcomed questions from the committee.
In the debate that followed, Members raised the following points:
· Supported the initiative;
· it was important to get the wording right;
· suggested that extra wording ‘as long as they were still a councillor’ be added to paragraph two of the proposed addition;
· suggested the period of six months be extended, if the birth was earlier than expected;
· considered it was appropriate to continue the Member allowance, but the Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) should not be paid to the Member whilst they were absent, but instead be awarded to the Member who stood-in;
· paragraph (4) stated that the replacement Councillor would receive an SRA, and so there was a cost implication to the Council;
· welcomed the initiative which would ensure that Members would not be disadvantaged and encourage more people to be Councillors, and it would improve diversity; and
· there would be some financial implications from this proposal.
The Deputy Cabinet Member responded to some of the points that had been raised. She referred to paragraph (4) and highlighted that there would be an allowance for the person taking on the role of the Councillor who was absent. She said that Swale Borough Council (SBC) was in the bottom 10 of a list of councils in the country in terms of diversity representation, and that it was important to improve this. The Deputy Cabinet Member said that it was a small step in terms of financial implications, but a big step in terms of encouraging a more inclusive environment.
Members made further comments which included:
· Clarification was needed on the wording of paragraph (4) as, with reference to paragraph (2), it looked as though there would be a doubling-up of payment;
· agreed with the proposals but needed to recognise that an SRA payment was a specific payment for someone doing a particular role and there should not be a ‘double’ payment;
· paragraph (4) could be better phrased;
· positive that this brought parity with employed status;
· needed to consider that if a Member did not return to work, that an element of the monies received should be returned;
· there should be no barriers to stop people becoming councillors;
· it seemed that the Committee agreed in principle to the ... view the full minutes text for item 285.
The Committee is asked to consider an update from the Cabinet Advisory Committees Working Group.
Update added 25 November 2020.
Councillor Tim Gibson, Cabinet Advisory Committees (CAC) Working Group member, introduced the to-follow update which gave a summary of the matters discussed at the two Working Group meetings which had been held on 5 and 18 November 2020.
He highlighted the main points on the update and advised that the next steps were to consider the CAC’s terms of reference and the resources that were needed.
The Cabinet Member for Planning welcomed the update and was interested to hear in their final report how the Group had decided upon the three proposed advisory committees, which he had originally suggested.
A Member thanked the Working Group for the work they had completed so far. He had some concerns about CACs and asked where themes such as the Area Committees and parental leave would sit within the three suggested committees? The Member considered there was still an over-riding need for the PDRC, for areas that did not naturally sit within the three advisory committees. The Member requested that Area Committees be added as an item for consideration at the next PDRC meeting.
The Policy and Performance Officer explained that the Working Group had looked at the issue of where certain themes would be placed, and it was considered that the two themes outlined above would fit within the finance portfolio.
(1) That the update be noted.
The Policy and Performance Officer introduced the report which explained that a new overarching enforcement policy had been developed and the report sought the Committee’s comments on the proposed new policy. He said that this would sit above all the other service-specific enforcement policies within the Council. The policy would replace the old policy already on the Council website which was out-of-date.
A Member drew attention to paragraph 3.11 of the policy which set-out that information and advice would be provided in plain English and the Member questioned whether this was ever implemented. The Member also suggested that going forward to increase diversity, this type of information be provided in other languages. The Policy and Performance Officer explained that the term plain English was standard and referred to all documentation provided by the Council. In terms of alternative languages, such as braille etc. there was another overarching policy which dealt with this on every publication from the council and on the website. The Member questioned whether paragraph 3.11, in that case, needed to be included within this policy.
(1) That the report be noted, and Cabinet consider the points raised by the Committee.
Adjournment of Meeting
The meeting was adjourned from 19.15 to 19.20 as the Chairman had IT connectivity problems. The Vice-Chairman took over as Vice-Chairman-in-the Chair for the rest of the meeting.