Decision details

Plans for Member Meetings during the Covid-19 Emergency

Decision Maker: Governance Committee

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Is Key decision?: No

Is subject to call in?: No


3.1        The Committee considered a report by the Director of Law and Assurance (copy appended to the signed minutes) on plans for meetings during the current public health emergency, the new Standing Orders on Virtual Meetings and proposals for meetings to the end of July 2020.


3.2     The Director of Law and Assurance introduced the report, highlighting the reasons for the proposals, and welcoming comments from the Committee about the new Standing Orders, the proposals including options for managing the list of pending notices of motion for Council


3.3     The Committee agreed it would be sensible to cancel the June and July County Local Committee (CLC) meetings.  It was also agreed to engage members informally regarding decisions, to be carried out through urgent action procedures, on Traffic Regulation Orders and Community Initiative Funding, the latter of which should be focused towards organisations providing sustainable support to communities and filling in identified gaps in the Covid-19 emergency response.


3.4     The Committee discussed a concern raised by Cllr Walsh about the Council’s lack of video technology for meetings. Cllr Lanzer advised that the Council is exploring the feasibility of videoconferencing options but it will take time to ensure the system is robust, secure and compatible with current IT systems, and can be satisfactorily accessed by home-workers.  Video conferencing uses a significant proportion of network capacity, and this must not interfere with the needs of operational activities.  However, the Committee noted that it is hoped to use Skype video from June.


3.5     The Committee discussed proposals for future full Council meetings and agreed that the next scheduled meeting on 17 July should go ahead.  Time should be allowed for debate on the Council’s handling and response to the Covid-19 emergency, including lessons learned.


3.6     The Committee also discussed a request by Cllr Walsh and Cllr M Jones for an additional full Council in June 2020 to demonstrate democratic accountability and to provide opportunity for an early debate on the Council’s response to the public health crisis and its impact on the area.


3.7     Cllr Walsh and Cllr M Jones also raised concerns about the three minutes allocated for Scrutiny Chairmen and leaders of the minority groups to speak at the monthly Cabinet meeting as being insufficient to address such complex issues.  The Committee noted that Cabinet meetings are a decision-making forum and all recent formal decisions were debated at the relevant scrutiny committees.


3.8     The Committee acknowledged the additional capacity required from staff to manage virtual meetings and also thanked staff who have been redeployment across the Council to respond to the Covid-19 emergency.


3.9     The Committee agreed with proposals to suspend the current member development programme, but noted that there are plans for an event about the budget and capital programme planning.


3.10   Cllr Walsh, seconded by Cllr M Jones, proposed that a meeting of County Council be held in June 2020 for the specific purposes of considering the Council’s response to the Covid-19 emergency and to allow members to ask questions on that topic.  The proposal was lost.


3.11   Cllr M Jones, seconded by Cllr Walsh, proposed that the following amendment to Part 4, Section 1A of the Constitution – Standing Orders – Virtual Meetings:


‘For the duration of these Standing Orders, the provision in Paragraph 10 of Appendix 1 of the Scheme of delegation which permits the leaders of each of the large and medium minority groups of the Council to attend any meeting of the Cabinet and speak for up to three minutes on any item on the agenda, shall be replaced with the following provision:


The leaders of each of the large and medium minority groups shall be invited to attend any meeting of the Cabinet and speak on the agenda item relating to the national emergency for up to five minutes, to have the right to ask supplementary questions and to put propositions to the Cabinet for them to debate and vote on.’


The proposal was lost.


3.12     Resolved –


(1)        That the new Standing Orders on Virtual Meetings, as set out at Appendix A, be noted;


(2)        That changes to member meetings to the end of July 2020 be made including:


(a)   Non-urgent or non-time critical matters to be postponed or dealt with informally.

(b)   Member development sessions be paused with the exception of an event on the Council’s budget and capital programme planning, expected to take place in July 2020.

(c)    Cabinet meetings to continue to be held monthly for collective decision making and that Scrutiny Chairman and leaders of the main minority groups continue to be invited to attend and speak at these meetings.

(d)   Scrutiny Committees continue as scheduled to focus on key decision preview and the monitoring of important service improvement programmes.  Performance and Finance Scrutiny Committee to be provided with updates on the impacts of Covid-19 through the Total Performance Monitor.

(e)   All County Local Committee meetings due to be held in June and July to be cancelled.  Members to be informally consulted about Traffic Regulation Orders and Community Initiative Funding, which will be determined via urgent action procedures.

(f)    That the next County Council meeting of 17 July 2020 take place and that arrangements be agreed at the meeting of Governance Committee on 22 June 2020.


(3)        That plans for member meetings be reviewed at the next Governance Committee meeting of 22 June 2020, including looking ahead to autumn 2020.

Publication date: 02/06/2020

Date of decision: 20/05/2020

Decided at meeting: 20/05/2020 - Governance Committee

Accompanying Documents: