To consider the report of the Director of Strategy, Performance and Governance, (copy enclosed).
The Council considered the report of the Director of Strategy, Performance and Governance seeking Members’ review of the procedures and arrangements for remote Committee meetings at Maldon District Council.
It was noted that the COVID-19 Interim Measures Group (COVID-19 Group) had considered a report (attached at Appendix A to the report) and agreed a procedure along with the instatement of remote Council and Committee meetings. A statutory annual meeting of the Council had been scheduled for Thursday 3 September and it was proposed to schedule that all Council and Committee meetings restarted from 5 October 2020.
At this point the Leader of the Council thanked Directors and particularly tier 2 managers for the work they had done in supporting the Directors during the COVID emergency. These thanks were expressed by other Members of the Council. On behalf of all Members of the Council he sent condolences to anyone in the District who had lost a loved one as a result of the health emergency.
The Director of Strategy, Performance and Governance presented the report highlighting:
· the Council’s quick and efficient response to the various challenges that had arisen during the COVID emergency, not least new guidance and policies introduced by Central Government, often at short notice, requiring changes to Council policy. It was noted that all decisions made during this period had been made transparently, logged and reported to Members on a weekly basis.
· the reinstatement of remote Council, District Planning Committee and Area Planning Committee (APC) meetings. An amended schedule of remote meetings (Appendix 3 to Appendix A) had been circulated prior to the meeting and now included APCs. The Interim Measures Group would continue to run alongside these remote meetings to enable quick decisions, where required.
The Director of Resources and Director of Service Delivery both outlined additional work that was ongoing, along with the pressures on staffing in response to the health emergency. The Leader reiterated this, commenting on the additional resources required to address any requirements from the Department for Communities and as well as ensure that business continued as usual.
At this point the Leader of the Council introduced Mr Chris Leslie, the new Director of Resources.
The Leader proposed that the recommendations as set out in the report be agreed. This proposal was duly seconded.
In response to questions, the Leader of the Council advised that in respect of the scheduled time and frequency of remote meetings it would be beneficial to carry out a review of remote meetings once the first few had taken place in June. The Leader advised that he would be proposing, at an Interim Measures Group meeting the following day, that meetings of the Corporate Governance Working Group (CGWG) be restarted and its membership be extended to include members of the Independent Group.
Councillor E L Bamford spoke in relation to the three recommendations and sought clarification on the following points:
· to whom Members should ask if they had issues they wanted considered by a Working Group;
· if the Air Quality Management (Market Hill) Working Group would reconvened to consider matters relating to Maldon High Street;
· concern regarding the length of Council meetings if it was having to consider matters previously dealt with by the Strategy & Resources and Performance, Governance and Audit Committees.
Councillor Bamford proposed that all Committees be reinstated as soon as possible preferably by the end of June 2020. She proposed that this action be taken opposed to the recommendations that were detailed in the report.
In response, the Leader provided an update on the Air Quality Management Working Group and how the result of the public consultation the Air Quality Management Action Plan would be reported to the Council on 2 July 2020. The Leader reminded Members of the process put in place by the Council when emergency powers were agreed and outlined the process undertaken when reports were due to be considered by the COVID-19 Group and Member involvement. Although in favour of reinstating all Committees he raised concern in respect of resources available and advised if Members were mindful to reinstate all Committees resources would need to be drawn from another area. He was therefore not able to support the proposal.
A debate ensued.
In accordance with Procedure Rule No. 13 (3) Councillor C Mayes requested a recorded vote.
Councillor Bamford advised that following the information provided by the Leader she wished to amend her previous proposal. She proposed that recommendation (i) be amended to add in where Members were to direct their request for reinstatement of a Working Group. The Leader clarified that this should be the COVID-19 Interim Measures Group.
The Leader then responded to some of the points raised during the debate:
· to start remote meetings of all Committees by the end of June it was necessary to understand how this would be resourced. He referred to the information previously provided by the Directors and in response further information on resources was provided by the Director of Service Delivery;
· a compromise to restarting all Committees by the end of June would be consider this matter at the Council meeting on 23 June, which would allow a review of the new remote meetings currently scheduled, resources required to deal with other Council matters etc.
· he agreed with the comments regarding reinstatement of the Air Quality Management (Market Hill) Working Group and would propose this at the next COVID-19 Group meeting, along with the addition of two Ward Members to the Working Group;
· any changes to the sizes of Committees could not be done until the Statutory Annual meeting of the Council. The Council would consider a report of the Corporate Governance Working Group at its meeting in August which would include a review of remote meetings.
Councillor Bamford further amended her earlier proposition requesting that recommendation (i) include reference to Members should send requests to the COVID-19 Group and in respect of reinstatement of all Committees by the end of June this should be amended to refer to just the Performance, Governance and Audit (PGA) Committee. She advised that in her view reinstatement of the PGA Committee would reduce the work of the COVID-19 Group. At the request of the Chairman, the Lead Legal Specialist and Monitoring Officer provided Members with some further clarification in respect of the proposal from Councillor Bamford and it was noted that the amendments related to recommendations (i) and (iii). The proposal was duly seconded.
The Leader of the Council responded to the proposal reiterating concerns regarding resources and urged Members not to support it but support the original recommendation amended to review remote Committees and reinstate remote meetings for all Committees as soon as practicably possible or no later than the end of July.
It was clarified at this point that all recommendations and proposals referred to related to remote meetings.
The Chairman then put the amendment in the name of Councillor Bamford, duly seconded. He advised that if the amendment failed he would then put forward the suggestion of the Leader of the Council.
In accordance with the request for a recorded vote, the voting for the amendment was as follows:
For the amendment:
Councillors E L Bamford, M G Bassenger, Miss A
M Beale, B S Beale,
Mrs P A Channer, M R Edwards, Mrs J L Fleming, B E Harker, M S Heard,
K W Jarvis, K M H Lagan, C Mayes, S P Nunn, N G F Shaughnessy, R H Siddall,
N Skeens, W Stamp, J Stilts, C Swain and Miss S White.
Against the amendment:
Councillors R G Boyce, A S Fluker, M W Helm, A J Hull, and Mrs M E Thompson.
The Chairman declared that the amendment was therefore carried and that the Council now had a substantive motion. The Chairman then put this to the Council for a vote.
In response to a number of comments the Chairman advised that he would allow for the substantive motion to be amended to provide clarification. The Leader of the Council then proposed that recommendation (ii) be amended to include the words, ‘with the exception of the Performance, Governance and Audit Committee’. The Lead Legal Specialist and Monitoring Officer advised that this proposal was acceptable as it did not change the substance of the substantive motion but purely provided further clarification. As an aide for Members the recommendations as amended were shown on the screen.
The Chairman then put this to the vote, and following the earlier request for a recorded vote the voting was as follows:
For the recommendation:
Councillors E L Bamford, M G
Bassenger, Miss A M Beale, B S Beale,
Mrs P A Channer, M R Edwards, Mrs J L Fleming, A S Fluker, B E Harker,
M S Heard, M W Helm, A J Hull, K W Jarvis, C Mayes, S P Nunn, N G F Shaughnessy, R H Siddall, N Skeens, W Stamp, J Stilts, C Swain and Miss S White.
Against the recommendation:
Councillors K M H Lagan and Mrs M E Thompson.
Councillor R G Boyce.
It was noted that Councillor C Morris’ vote had not been recorded as he had not been present for the earlier vote. This was confirmed by the Lead Legal Specialist and Monitoring Officer.
The Chairman declared that the proposal was therefore agreed.
(i) That Members advise the COVID-19 Interim Measures Group of any items they would like considered at Working Groups / areas they consider to be urgent business;
(ii) That Members agree to review remote working arrangements in August 2020, ahead of the Statutory Annual meeting, allowing time to assess the way they work, and that this is based on a report of the Corporate Governance Working Group, with the exception of the Performance, Governance and Audit Committee;
(iii) That Members review a recommended start date for all Committees remotely from 5 October 2020 with the exception of the Performance, Governance and Audit Committee resuming virtual meetings at the end of June 2020.
Councillor Morris raised a point of order that he had been excluded from the meeting illegally and unconstitutionally. In response the Chairman advised that he would not be accepting this as a point of order.
Councillor K W Jarvis left the meeting and did not return at this point.