Agenda and minutes

Governance Select Committee
Tuesday, 23rd October, 2018 7.15 pm

Venue: Committee Room 1, Civic Offices, High Street, Epping. View directions

Contact: S. Tautz  Tel: (01992) 564243 Email:  democraticservices@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

12.

Substitute Members (Council Minute 39 - 23.7.02)

To report the appointment of any substitute members for the meeting.

Minutes:

It was reported that no substitute members had been appointed for the meeting.

 

13.

Notes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 77 KB

To agree the notes of the meeting of the Select Committee held on 3 July 2018.

 

Minutes:

The notes of the meeting of the Committee held on 3 July 2018 were agreed as a correct record.

 

14.

Declarations of Interest

To declare interests in any items on the agenda.

 

In considering whether to declare a pecuniary or a non-pecuniary interest under the Code of Conduct, members are asked pay particular attention to paragraph 9 of the Code in addition to the more familiar requirements. This requires the declaration of a non-pecuniary interest in any matter before an overview and scrutiny committee which relates to a decision of or action by another Committee or Sub-Committee of the Council, a Joint Committee or Joint Sub-Committee in which the Council is involved and of which the Councillor is also a member.

 

Paragraph 9 does not refer to Cabinet decisions or attendance at an overview and scrutiny meeting purely for the purpose of answering questions or providing information on such a matter.

 

Minutes:

No interests were declared by members of the Committee in any item on the agenda for the meeting, pursuant to the Council’s Code of Conduct

15.

Terms of Reference & Work Programme pdf icon PDF 49 KB

(Chairman/Lead Officer) The Overview and Scrutiny Committee has agreed the terms of reference of the Select Committee for the current municipal year. These are attached as an appendix to this agenda, along with the ongoing work programme for the Committee and Members are requested to review the terms of reference and progress towards the achievement of the work programme.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee reviewed its terms of reference for the current municipal year and current progress towards the achievement of its work programme for the year.

 

16.

Review of Local Elections 2018 & Associated Matters pdf icon PDF 144 KB

To consider the attached report.

Minutes:

The Committee considered a comprehensive report of the Returning Officer, reviewing the planning and delivery of the local elections held in May 2018 and addressing other matters related to the responsibilities of the Returning Officer and the Electoral Registration Officer. The Committee was advised that candidates and agents for the elections had been offered an opportunity to provide feedback on the management of the local elections.

 

The Returning Officer reported that a team of appropriate officers had met regularly from late 2017 to plan for the elections and to ensure that processes were undertaken at the appropriate times. A project plan and risk register for the elections had been prepared, which was reviewed and updated on a regular basis throughout the election period. The Committee was advised that the Returning Officer had retained the services of specialist Counsel to advise on issues arising during the election period and that some difficulties had been encountered with the Council’s bank, which had taken a number of weeks to make necessary changes to the Returning Officer’s Account, following the resignation of the former Chief Executive (and Returning Officer) in December 2017.

 

The Committee was advised that the Public Relations Section had undertaken a sustained publicity campaign in the run-up to the election days to encourage registration and voting and that the BBC had complimented the Council’s provision of a media pack for the press as exemplary. The Returning Officer reported that a successful and well-attended candidates briefing had been held to brief candidates on the arrangements for the election, to which local media representatives had also been invited.

 

The Returning Officer reported that assistance had been received from Essex Police around the local elections and that the visible presence by the police and the additional security measures put in place to maintain the security of the election process and the count following the General Election in 2015, had continued to operate effectively. Members were advised that appropriate levels of staffing had been available for polling stations, the verification and the count and that service directors had been helpful in releasing officers from normal duties to undertake election processes.

 

The Committee noted that postal voting had continued to be very popular and that a return rate of 69% of postal votes issued had been achieved for the election. The Returning Officer reported that there had been a low number of postal ballots rejected at the verification stage and that no evidence of fraudulent activity had been identified. Members were advised that electors whose postal ballot was rejected at the verification stage were contacted by the Returning Officer after the election and, where required, specimen signatures were refreshed. The Committee noted that the rejection of postal ballots was always adjudicated upon by a Deputy Returning Officer.

 

The Returning Officer reported that there had been some changes to polling stations for the elections, particularly in Chigwell where a polling station had been moved to the Domus Mariae Centre (part of Chigwell Convent). Members noted that feedback  ...  view the full minutes text for item 16.

17.

Petition Scheme - Review pdf icon PDF 139 KB

To consider the attached report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered further information with regard to its review of the operation of the Council’s current Petition Scheme, comprising comparative information obtained in respect of the signature thresholds for petitions managed by a number of neighbouring authorities. The Democratic Services Manager reported that the comparative information obtained from other authorities with regard to the handling of petitions, suggested that low numbers of petitions were received across the board and that the Council’s existing thresholds did not therefore appear to be presenting a barrier to the submission of petitions.

 

The Democratic Services Manager reported that, in accordance with the wishes of the Committee at its meeting February 2018, a review of the existing guidance for the Petition Scheme had been undertaken to ensure that this was clear and consistent. Members were advised that the revised scheme incorporated previous separate guidance in regard to the creation of e-petitions and also set out the main functions of the Council to ensure that, as far as possible, petitions were always directed to the most appropriate organisation.

 

The Committee was advised that, once agreed, the revised Petition Scheme would be publicised appropriately on the Council’s website and in the Council Bulletin, to increase member and officer awareness of the scheme and the Council’s procedures, as it was often the case that were petitions are submitted directly to ward councillors. The Democratic Services Manager reported that the location of the Petition Scheme pages on the Council’s website was also to be reviewed, as part of the development of the new website structure.

 

The Democratic Services Manager reminded members that the Petition Scheme formed part of the Council’s Constitution and that revisions would therefore be required to be agreed by the Council.

 

RESOLVED:

 

(1)       That, subject to the inclusion of Allotments, Cemeteries and Open Spaces as responsibilities of local councils in the schedule of local government functions, the revised version of the Council’s Petition Scheme be agreed; and

 

(2)       That, subject to the views of the Constitution Working Group, the Council be requested to agree the revised Petition Scheme for inclusion within the Constitution.

 

18.

Equality Objectives 2018-2022 - Quarterly Monitoring pdf icon PDF 135 KB

To consider the attached report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee was reminded that the Equality Act 2010 placed a number of responsibilities on the Council, including a Public Sector Equality Duty to have due regard to equality in the exercise of its functions, to eliminate discrimination, to advance equality of opportunity and to foster good relations between persons who share a relevant characteristic and those who do not.

 

The Senior Project Manager reported that, to advance its compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duty, the Council was also required to adopt appropriate equality objectives to improve equality for service users and employees.

 

The Committee noted that, in April 2018, the Cabinet had agreed four equality objectives for the period from 2018 to 2022 that had been designed to help the Council meet the aims of the Public Sector Equality Duty. Members reviewed quarterly progress against the achievement of the objectives and other work to ensure compliance with the Council’s equality duties.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That current progress in relation to the achievement of the Council’s Equality Objectives for 2018-2022 and other work to ensure the compliance with Public Sector Equality Duty, be noted.

19.

Equality Information Report 2018 pdf icon PDF 132 KB

To consider the attached report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee was reminded that the Equality Act 2010 required authorities subject to the Public Sector Equality Duty, to publish annual equality information to demonstrate compliance with the Duty.

 

The Senior Project Manager reported that the Council had published its previous equality information report in September 2017. The Committee therefore considered the progress made over the last year to improve the Council’s services and employment practices for people with protected characteristics, and its draft Equality Information Report for 2018.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the Council’s Equality Information Report for 2018 be agreed.

20.

Development Management pdf icon PDF 76 KB

To receive feedback from the meeting of the Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen of the Area Plans Sub-Committees and the District Development Management Committee, held on 17 September 2018.

 

Minutes:

The Committee considered the notes of the meeting of the Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen of the Area Plans Sub-Committees and the District Development Management Committee, that had been held on 17 September 2018.

 

Members raised concerns with regard to the consideration of planning applications by the Area Plans Sub-Committees, in circumstances where such applications were referred to a Sub-Committee for determination solely as a result of the receipt of an objection to the development proposal by the relevant local council and where no other valid objection had been received, in accordance with recent revisions to the Scheme of Delegation.

 

The Service Director (Governance and Member Services) reported that, in several recent instances, the respective local council had not attended a meeting of a Sub-Committee to present its objections to a development proposal, as required by the  Scheme of Delegation. The Committee considered that, in such circumstances, applications should be referred (without consideration) to the Service Director (Planning Services) for determination by resolution of the Sub-Committee, as without the receipt of an objection by the local council the application would have automatically been determined by the Service Director (Planning Services) in accordance with the current Scheme of Delegation.

 

RESOLVED:

 

(1)       That the notes of the meeting of the Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen of the Area Plans Sub-Committees and the District Development Management Committee held on 17 September 2018, be noted;

 

(2)       That the appreciation of the Committee be extended to the Planning and Governance Portfolio Holder, for the provision of roving security patrols at meetings of the Area Plans Sub-Committees;

 

(3)       That the views of the Committee with regard to the consideration of applications by the Area Plans Sub-Committees where a local council is the sole objector to a development proposal but does not attend the meeting of the Sub-Committee to present such objection, be communicated to the Chairmen and Vice Chairmen of the Sub-Committees;

 

(4)       That the operation of the revised Scheme of Delegation requirements for local councils to present objections to development proposals at meetings of the Area Plans Sub-Committees continue to be monitored by the Democratic Services Manager; and

 

(5)       That the operation of the revised Scheme of Delegation requirements for local councils to present objections to development proposals at meetings of the Area Plans Sub-Committees, be reviewed by the Constitution Working Group as soon as possible.

 

 

21.

Reports to be made to the next meeting of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee

To identify any matters to be reported to the next meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

 

Minutes:

The Service Director (Governance and Member Services) reminded the Committee that the review of parliamentary polling districts and polling places to be undertaken during 2019 was a matter for full Council to approve and that the Committee would normally recommend the review to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and then to full Council. Members noted that, given the desirability of completing the review by July 2019, the Committee had agreed earlier in the meeting that a report should be made directly to the Council to enable the review timescale to be achieved.

 

The Service Director (Governance and Member Services) indicated that a report would be made to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at its meeting on 18 December 2018, to give effect to this decision.