Hounslow Council


Agenda, decisions and minutes

Venue: Committee Room 1, Civic Centre, Lampton Road, Hounslow. View directions

Contact: Ainsley Gilbert Email: ainsley.gilbert@hounslow.gov.uk 020 8583 2064 

Items
No. Item

1.

Appointment of the Vice-Chair

Decision:

Councillor Amrit Mann was elected as Vice-Chair of the Members Constitutional Working Party.

Minutes:

Councillor Amrit Mann was elected as Vice-Chair of the Members Constitutional Working Party.

2.

Apologies for absence, declarations of interest or any other communications from Members

Decision:

There were no apologies for absence or declarations of interest.

Minutes:

There were no apologies for absence or declarations of interest.

3.

Minutes of the meeting held on 4 April 2014 and matters arising pdf icon PDF 31 KB

Decision:

The minutes of the meeting held on 4th April 2014 were agreed to be accurate. There were no matters arising.

Minutes:

Councillor Dennison joined the meeting at this point.

 

The minutes of the meeting held on 4th April 2014 were agreed to be accurate. There were no matters arising.

4.

Purpose of the Members Constitution Working Party pdf icon PDF 120 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

The report was noted.

Minutes:

Thomas Ribbits, Head of Democratic Services, explained that the Members Constitutional Working Party was intended to reduce the amount of time spent on constitutional matters at Borough Council meetings and allow members from both parties to consider issues in detail, in a less politically charged environment.

 

Councillor Dennison said that he had been sceptical about the value of the working party, but that he had been persuaded that it was worthwhile, noting that it was considered to be good practice by those carrying out audits of the Council’s governance arrangements.

 

The report was noted.

5.

Review of Achievements of the Members Constitution Working Party pdf icon PDF 116 KB

Decision:

The report was noted.

Minutes:

Councillor Elizabeth Hughes joined the meeting at this point.

 

Thomas Ribbits, Head of Democratic Services, explained that the report set out the achievements of the working party over the last municipal year. Councillor Dennison asked whether the suggestion of allowing substitutes for committee meetings was likely to be taken forward. Thomas Ribbits explained that the previous meeting of the working party had decided not to pursue the idea.

 

The report was noted.

6.

Officer work plan in support of the Members Constitution Working Party pdf icon PDF 105 KB

Decision:

It was agreed that officers would explore options for the publication of Councillors’ work outside of formal committee meetings.

Minutes:

Thomas Ribbits, Head of Democratic Services, explained that the purpose of the report was to alert members to the work of officers in supporting the working party.

 

Councillor Dennison asked whether an expanded members code of conduct could be developed, to include standards on Councillors performance. The Chair asked what performance meant in this proposal. Councillor Dennison said that he considered performance to be the level of engagement Councillors had with their residents. This meant attending meetings, answering emails and the like.

 

Thomas Ribbits explained that issues of Councillors performance were generally left to the political parties to resolve, as it was difficult for officers to judge the performance of Councillors. Enforcement of the policy would also be difficult.

 

Councillor Mann said that there was a wide range of reasons why Councillors might not be as engaged with residents as they might wish to be, or indeed why they couldn’t resolve a resident’s issues. He didn’t feel that a prescriptive code would allow for things such as I.T. failures to be considered. He also said that the issue of vexatious complainants needed to be considered.

 

Councillor Hughes said that it was important to remember that Councillors were not employees, and were held accountable for their performance primarily by their constituents. She felt that Councillors should decide how best to use their time. She noted that political parties already had mechanisms for the control of their members, and felt that Councillors performance was best left in the political sphere. She noted however that she would like to see all Councillors vetted by the Disclosure and Barring Service.

 

Councillor O’Reilly agreed that officers ought not to try to control how Councillors went about their work.

 

The Chair said that parties could take action against individual Councillors where they felt it appropriate, based on their attendance, or indeed other performance, such as good attendance at surgeries. He felt that there would be some merit in publicising more information about informal meetings held by Councillors, to show residents more of what Councillors did on their behalf.  Councillor Hughes supported this idea, and suggested that some form of timesheets for Councillors could be explored. The Chair said that casework could also be looked at. Councillor Hughes noted that some Councillors had previously tried to prove their performance by lodging a large number or pieces of casework, but these had all been relatively small issues like potholes, which didn’t take much of their time. Councillor Curran agreed that the detail of any system for publishing more information was important.

 

Councillor Dennison said that he thought that a larger profile for Councillors on the borough’s website could improve Councillors accountability to residents, but said that he felt that some standard for communication ought to be introduced, although he didn’t mind whether this was enforced by the Borough or parties.

It was agreed that officers would explore options for the publication of Councillors’ work outside of formal committee meetings.

7.

Update on Review of Outside Bodies pdf icon PDF 96 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

Mary Harpley noted that a mechanism for feeding-back Councillors experiences of outside bodies would need to be established before the end of the municipal year.

 

Mary Harpley asked that the guidance on trusts be re-issued to relevant Councillors.

 

Councillor Mann asked that a list of requirements needing to be met before Councillors were appointed to a body be produced. The Chair asked that this be included on the agenda of the January meeting of the Members Constitutional Working Party.

 

Minutes:

Thomas Ribbits, Head of Democratic Services, explained that a review of outside bodies had been undertaken, and had resulted in a reduction in the number of bodies the Council appointed representatives to. Further work on council sponsored trusts was ongoing.

 

Councillor O’Reilly asked if any feedback from outside bodies had been received. Thomas Ribbits explained that only informal feedback had been received but said that this had been positive. He noted that members might bring further views in their annual reports to the Council. Mary Harpley noted that a mechanism for feeding-back Councillors experiences of outside bodies would need to be established before the end of the municipal year.

 

Councillor Hughes said that she was concerned about the governance of some outside bodies. It had taken five years for her to sign a document accepting her position on the Heston Parochial Charities Trust. She was also still waiting to formally be made a Trustee of the David Henry Waring Home Trust. The Chair noted that trusts were responsible for their own governance arrangements. Councillor Mann noted that trustees could be personally liable for the failings of outside bodies and asked whether Councillors were insured for that circumstance.

 

Thomas Ribbits explained that guidance on outside bodies had been circulated to Councillors, along with specific guidance for those acting as trustees. Mary Harpley asked that the guidance on trusts be re-issued to relevant Councillors.

 

Councillor Mann asked that a list of requirements needing to be met before Councillors were appointed to a body be produced. The Chair asked that this be included on the agenda of the January meeting of the Members Constitutional Working Party.

 

8.

Proposed updates to Cabinet Procedure Rules in the Constitution pdf icon PDF 80 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

It was agreed that the Cabinet Procedure Rules, as set out in pages 44-47 of the agenda pack, and amended by the tabled paper, be recommended to Borough Council for approval.

Minutes:

It was agreed that the Cabinet Procedure Rules, as set out in pages 44-47 of the agenda pack, and amended by the tabled paper (appended to these minutes), be recommended to Borough Council for approval.

9.

Updating the Contract Procedure Rules and Financial Regulations pdf icon PDF 99 KB

Additional documents:

Decision:

Sarah Rayner, Assistant Director for Supply Chain Management, was to give Councillor Dennison a list of those service areas which might be affected by paragraph 6.2.4 ‘Prior to procurement the responsible officer must consult the Procurement Hub on all procurements in excess of £75,000’.

 

It was agreed that section 3.18 ‘Virements between capital budgets’ be deleted, and that appropriate changes be made to paragraphs 3.13 – 3.17 to give the regulations effect over both revenue and capital virements. These changes were to be made by officers in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Finance, Councillor Theo Dennison, and the Chair of the Audit Committee, Councillor Surinder Purewal.

Minutes:

Sarah Rayner, Assistant Director for Supply Chain Management, explained that the report sought to amend both the Council’s Contract Procedure Rules and the Financial Regulations.

 

Daniel Austin, e-Procurement Officer, spoke about the new Contract Procedure Rules. He explained that the name of the document had been changed from the Contract and Tenders Regulations as a result of a recommendation from the Chartered Institute for Public Finance and Accountancy. The new rules sought to include social value as part of every tender, and required e-tendering for all contracts above £5,000. Rules on waivers were also tightened in the new version. The document had been significantly shortened by removing much of the guidance on implementation, and including this in new guidance documents. Sarah Rayner noted that a members working group, consisting of Councillors Kaur, Lal, and Carey, had discussed the new rules.  She explained that the working group was now focusing on the processes and templates behind the rules.  This work is ongoing with members.

 

Mary Harpley, Chief Executive, referred to paragraph 4.11 of the covering report and asked why it was necessary to include a rule saying that the corporate procurement hub needed to be consulted on all contracts above £75,000, when all procurement should now be fully. Sarah Rayner explained that the Capital Works team, led by Bob Seera, were more actively involved in works procurement owing to the specialist nature of their service, and that the rule was to ensure that significant procurements by that team involved the procurement hub. Mary Harpley and Councillor Dennison asked that lowering the threshold to £30k be considered. 

 

The Members Constitution Working Party agreed to recommend the Contract Procedure Rules for adoption by Borough Council, subject to any small changes made as a result of the conversation about consultation with the corporate procurement hub on significant contracts.

 

Lorelei Watson spoke about the Financial Regulations. She explained that the main changes reflected the Council’s new structure, the use of procurement cards and other new banking functionality, and an updated process for budget virements.  The new regulations had been considered by the Audit Committee.

 

It was agreed that section 3.18 ‘Virements between capital budgets’ be deleted, and that appropriate changes be made to paragraphs 3.13 – 3.17 to give the regulations effect over both revenue and capital virements. These changes were to be made by officers in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Finance, Councillor Theo Dennison, and the Chair of the Audit Committee, Councillor Surinder Purewal.

10.

Mechanisms for the Allocation of S. 106 Funding pdf icon PDF 79 KB

Decision:

It was agreed that deletion of the phrase ‘(including S. 106)’ from paragraph 4.1(1) of the Area Forum Terms of Reference be recommend to Borough Council.

Minutes:

Thomas Ribbits, Head of Democratic Services, explained that the Cabinet had agreed on 9th September 2014 that it wished to streamline the allocation of

S. 106 contributions, by removing the decision from area forums.  The report proposed the required change to the terms of reference of the area forums.

 

Councillor O’Reilly said that the allocation of S. 106 funds was of concern to local people, and said that it was important to allocate funds as efficiently as possible.  Councillor Dennison said that the proposal would remove the delay of waiting for a meeting of the relevant area forum.

 

Councillor Hughes said that it was important that areas didn’t miss out on funding through pooling. Councillor Dennison said that the idea was to centralise the decision making, to localise the funding, with his intention being to involve ward members in allocating money. Cabinet however had a responsibility to ensure that this was done, and so the responsibility had to lie with them.  

 

It was agreed that deletion of the phrase ‘(including S. 106)’ from paragraph 4.1(1) of the Area Forum Terms of Reference be recommend to Borough Council.

11.

Items to add to the work plan pdf icon PDF 104 KB

Decision:

Councillor Dennison asked that items nine, ten and, eleven of the working party’s work plan be considered after the ongoing Citizen Engagement Consultation had been completed.

Minutes:

Councillor Dennison asked that items nine, ten and, eleven of the working party’s work plan be considered after the ongoing Citizen Engagement Consultation had been completed.

12.

Date of next meeting - 26 January 2015

Members to discuss whether they want all meetings moved from afternoon to evening.

Decision:

It was agreed that the next meeting, to be held on 26th January 2015 be arranged to begin at 5.30pm.

Minutes:

It was agreed that the next meeting, to be held on 26th January 2015 be arranged to begin at 5.30pm.

13.

Any other matters which the Chair considers urgent

Decision:

There was no such business.

Minutes:

There was no such business.