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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 01/04/2003
Review of the Constitution



[Wards Affected: All]

Membership of the New Constitution Special Interest Group
Captain P G Burden (Chairman)Mr G R Miller
Mrs J E DoddMrs C E Savage
Mrs P M FrostMr C C E Slyfield
Mr D G KinsellaDr R A Thomas


1. The Council introduced a pilot modernised decision making process in February 2001 and final arrangements in December 2001. The SIG met on five/six occasions under the following terms of reference:-

(b) Scheme of Delegation; and

Subsequently, on 5th November 2002, the Executive agreed that the SIG should conduct both the completion of the constitution work, set out at (a) to (c) above, and the review process of operation of the finally agreed Constitution, which was implemented in December 2001.

District Audit Review of Democratic Renewal

2. The District Auditor, at the Council’s request, carried out a review of the operation of the Constitution. This concluded that the Constitution complied with government guidance, that the Council was committed to making the new arrangements work and that processes generally followed government guidance.

3. It identified areas for improvement which generally coincided with those areas already identified by the Council, including:-

Focus and effectiveness of overview and scrutiny
Executive overload
Need for increased delegation

SIG Proposals

4. The SIG has looked at a range of issues, from fundamental areas such as those raised in the District Audit review, to detailed refinements of current practices to learn from experience of operating the Constitution.

5. The main areas covered were:-

a) Making Overview and Scrutiny more effective
b) Streamlining the Executive’s decision-making process to free it up to concentrate on significant issues.
c) Procedural refinements
d) Completion of deferred Constitution elements – Member/Officer Protocol etc.

6. The themes and approach used by the SIG were:-

Service focus – the democratic arrangements were intended to help provide better services and community leadership
Cultural change and new ways of working
Backbench member involvement to come up with ways of overcoming the sense of alienation felt by many members
Robustness of arrangements to cope with changes in political control

a) Making Overview and Scrutiny more Effective

Overview and Scrutiny (O&S) Roles

The SIG re-stated the range of roles, including: Overview, Scrutiny of Executive decisions, Select Committee investigation, policy development, community involvement, Performance monitoring, and a role in best value and Comprehensive Performance Assessment

The SIG noted that call-in has now been used on ten occasions and that procedures generally worked well. Some members have however asked that more time be given between notice of the call-in and the call-in meeting taking place, so that some research on options can be carried out and presented to the Overview and Scrutiny meeting in addition to submitting the officers report that the Executive had considered. (See Detailed Changes, paragraph 4, (vi))

The SIG also felt that the more proactive roles discussed at the Overview and Scrutiny workshops should be developed and committees encouraged to focus on two or three major projects a year. These would then form the basis of reports to the Executive, as set out in the current Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules.

Committee Numbers and Terms of Reference

The SIG felt that the current three committees should refocus their Terms of Reference as set out Annexe 2. The aims were to achieve improved coherence, cohesion and integration. The SIG also felt that performance monitoring was better performed by O&S, with regular exception reports on performance covering a range of around fifteen key indicators. If necessary observations requesting action would be reported to the Executive, but otherwise issues such as presentation or clarification could be acted on by officers. The new Committee Terms of Reference would also help Waverley prepare for Comprehensive Performance Assessment. It felt that each Committee should meet once a cycle, but with the option of setting up special and/or joint meetings on key issues, such as the budget.

Committee Memberships

The SIG acknowledged that there had been good initial reasons for setting the membership of the three committees at seventeen members, but felt that experience had shown that their size made these larger committees less effective. Accordingly, the SIG suggested that a membership of eleven would be an appropriate number to balance effectiveness as a group with the need to include a broad range of members.

The Role of SIGs and O&S

The SIG recognised that SIGs had performed a valuable role in the past, but felt that SIG roles could overlap with Overview and Scrutiny and remove the policy development role, one of the potentially most rewarding and interesting activities, from O&S members.

The SIG wished to continue the process of a small group of members working with a portfolio holder, but felt this was best achieved by Sub-Groups of O&S Committees, either formally constituted Sub-Committees or informal groups on a similar basis to SIGs. Membership of these groups would be drawn from all members of the Council not on the Executive and would have the option of co-opting non-councillors. They would be intended to give opportunities to a broader group of members to have an input to policy development, performance monitoring and scrutinising of particular topics.

The SIG felt that the Member/Tenants’ SIG was an exception, and in effect a consultative group, and therefore should continue largely in its present form.

The SIG’s preference is for informal sub-groups, and a suggested updated protocol is attached as Annexe 3.

b) Streamlining Executive Decision Making

The experience of the first fifteen months of full Executive arrangements has proved that the Executive agenda are overloaded and that the Executive has not been able to focus on major issues. The District Audit report also suggested this was preventing the Council from gaining the potential benefits of the new democratic arrangements.

Delegation of Routine Property Management Matters

The officers propose that routine property management matters be delegated to the Property and Development Manager, after notifying the appropriate ward member(s). Suggested wording is attached at Annexe 4.

Effect on Executive agenda

Officers have analysed the last year’s agenda and this breakdown is attached. The change proposed by Officers on property matters would have removed about 10% of items.

The suggested re-routing of monitoring items proposed by the SIG would remove a further 5-10%, but this would have an effect on the Overview and Scrutiny Committees’ agenda. This could be dealt with, without overloading Overview and Scrutiny if officers are more rigorous about reporting only exceptions from performance targets.

Consultation Documents

The SIG proposes that Consultation Documents, except those directly affecting Waverley such as relevant SCC Documents, should be responded to by Directors, after consultation with the appropriate Portfolio Holder(s) and Management Board. Notice of these documents and proposed responses should be given to all Members in a more frequent electronic version of Outlook for Members.

Overall Reduction

Cumulatively, the proposed property management changes, diversion of monitoring reports and delegation of consultation responses would have achieved around a 30% reduction in the number of Executive Agenda items over the last year.

c) Procedural Improvements

Below are draft detailed changes to meet some of the issues raised by Members, together with consequential changes reflecting some of the SIG’s proposals.

Options for Change
A.Members raising additional matters when exercising a right of reply, e.g to a debate when mover of an amendment or Chairman is summing upReinsert provision from former Standing Orders to clarify - see Annexe 4
B.Supplementary Question - when asking formal questions as part 2 of 3 items, members given a right to ask one related supplementary question.Not in former Standing Orders - but in other Council e.g Surrey County Council - see Annexe 4

O & S Matters
B.Role of substitute members right to speak if they have initiated call-in but then not called to substitute to next O & S meetingAdd to O & S protocol - see Annexe 4
A.Substitutes to be permittedAmend SIG protocol - see Annexe 4
Backbench members right to speak - clarify procedure rulesAdd to Council Procedure Rules - see Annexe 4.

The changes to the focus and effectiveness of the Overview and Scrutiny process do not involve very large changes to the Articles or Procedure Rules of the Constitution.

However, there are some significant changes and these have been drafted.

4. Detailed Changes

Proposed drafting changes to the Constitution are detailed below:

(i) Virement and supplementary estimates and key decisions
(ii) Role of Mayor if no overall control
(iii) Co-ordinating Overview and Scrutiny
(iv) Responsibility for Functions of Licensing and Regulatory Committee.
(v) Role of Overview and Scrutiny Committee Chairmen and Shadow Executive
(vi) Time for consideration of call-in
(vii) Legal Matters
(viii) Standards Committee – possible extended roles
d) Completing other Aspects of the Constitution

(i) Member/Officer Protocol (ii) Management Structure Charts
Resource Implications

The SIG recognised that no provision had been made in budgets for any additional support to the democratic support function, but felt that this should not constrain the Council in drawing up improved arrangements which might require additional resources.


The SIG felt that Members in their training days had already identified most of the areas highlighted in the District Auditor’s (DA) report and that it’s proposals responded to the DA’s suggestions.

The SIG noted that the Constitution, as currently drafted, allowed a large degree of flexibility in the set up of the Executive and Overview and Scrutiny, with the only constraint being a commitment in the event of a single party Executive to allocating the Chairs of Overview and Scrutiny Committees to the Opposition.

The SIG recognised that there is a continuing process of cultural change for the Council, and that the new Council will eventually evolve its own way of working. There is an enhanced member training budget for next year to change help this process.

The SIG also suggested that the new Council may wish to conduct a further brief review in twelve months, particularly to look at delegation and Council Procedure Rules.


The Executive is asked to consider the SIG report, and to make appropriate recommendations to the Council for additions as amendments to the Constitution, and to authorise the Chief Executive to draft these for submission to the Council.

Background Papers (Cex)

District Audit ‘Democratic Renewal’ Report on Waverley Borough Council – January 2003


Name: Robin Pellow Telephone: 01483 523222

Email: rpello@waverley.gov.uk