(Monitoring Officer) To consider the attached report.
The Council had considered the results of a review on the desirability of combining the Audit and Governance Committee and the Standards Committee on 18 February 2016. At that meeting, the Council concluded the proposals for a merged committee not be adopted as part of the changes to the Constitution, but for a review of the position to take place after two years.
The Constitution Working Group had revisited the merger proposal at its meeting on 16 April 2018. On the advice of the Assistant Director (Governance), the Constitution Working Group agreed to defer its review of a merger because the restructure of the Council was underway, as well as the review of the Overview and Scrutiny Select Committees to reflect this new structure.
Since then the Council had undertaken a restructure and replaced the previous four directorates with seven service areas, with Portfolio Holders aligned to each of these. In addition, the four directorate select committees had been reduced to three and aligned with the Council’s three corporate objectives (Stronger Place, Stronger Communities, Stronger Council).
The next step options below were considered, whereby the views of both the Audit and Governance Committee and Standards Committee could be sought to establish if there was an appetite to merge the two committees by considering the following provisos to address concerns raised in 2018:
• A higher number of members for the new Committee. Currently there were nine Members available to consider Standards issues, which would have been reduced to three under the initial proposals.
• Ask Council to create a specific group to deal with Standards Investigation Hearings that would meet on an ad hoc basis, i.e. as the need arose.
• With regards to a perceived lack of involvement of Parish Councils as currently there were three representatives from the Local Councils affiliated to the District Council’s Standards Committee.
• Ask that all agendas were notified to Parish and Town clerks that were aligned to the District’s Standards Committee.
• Ask that existing Parish representatives be invited to attend meetings of the new committee as they considered necessary.
• Change the Terms of Reference to include that any hearing into a Parish/Town Councillor included an appropriate representative.
Councillor J H Whitehouse said that when this had previously been thoroughly discussed, members did not want to do this and she was against the merger.
Councillor S Heap agreed but he did not know where standards issues would fit into the Audit and Governance Committee’s remit.
Councillor J Philip also agreed. The Audit and Governance Committee had a hefty work programme as it was, and management of the Risk Register’s responsibilities would create a significant amount of work. There was no benefit at this time to merge the two committees, as both committees did different things. Therefore, the Working Group should not reconsider a merger unless instigated at the request of either committee, which was agreed.
That a report be made to Council recommending:
(1) That existing arrangements remained the same for the Audit and Governance Committee and the Standards Committee with no merger; and
(2) That any future merger would be reconsidered by the Constitution Working Group only at the request of either of the Audit and Governance Committee or the Standards Committee.