Dartmouth Town Council has released a detailed description of plans to streamline decision making . Initially proposed by Cllr Graham Evans, they show that, far from reducing transparency the new proposals will allow Council to streamline decision making and free Council meetings to discuss key issues and new ideas to benefit the Community. Here is the Town Council’s statement released in the Chronicle today:
I am presenting the proposal for this council to approve the scheme of delegation that has been discussed at 2 full council gatherings and allowed submissions by email for those not wishing to attend those meetings.
The idea behind this scheme is twofold.. the first, to bring us into line with how other local councils operate in this day and age, and to streamline the decision making process within the council and to leave full council meetings free to discuss new ideas and options for the benefit of the community beyond what has already been agreed for the fiscal year in the current Budget.
This Scheme of Delegation authorises Standing Committees of the Council, in conjunction with the Town Clerk / Proper Officer, the Responsible Financial Officer, Administrator, the Properties Manager and the Town Groundsman to act with delegated authority in specific circumstances.
This is proposed under section 101 of the Local Government act of 1972 which provides for this option and is part of its recommendations.
Under these recommendations, it is proposed that the Finance and General Purposes committees are merged (F&GP) and that the Parks and Open Spaces and Property committee are merged to form a Council Assets Committee (CA).
These changes have no impact at all on either the Planning Committee or the Personnel Committee, although the Personnel committee will be changing its name to Staffing Committee to more accurately reflect its role and responsibilities.
It is proposed that each of the two new merged committees will have their membership increased to allow for 10 councillors plus the Mayor and Deputy Mayor (total 12 people) to allow more people to get involved with the day to day running of the council. In addition, it is proposed that a change to our standing orders is made to the quorums of the council committees and the full council from the existing 1/3rd of members or a minimum of 3 to ½ of members or 3 whichever is greater to ensure that a majority of councillors democratically make decisions.
Full committee minutes will be distributed to all councillors, in-line with our existing Standing Orders, prior to the meeting, with those options for discussion that will include a vote using delegated powers marked. If, at that point, any three councillors (whether on the committee or not) write to or email the clerk, prior to the committee meeting date regarding any item on that committees agenda and objecting to the delegated powers being used, then these objections will be discussed by the Clerk, Mayor and Deputy Mayor to determine if the delegated powers should or should not be removed from that committee meetings agenda item.
Therefore, as can be seen, the only delegated powers that the committee will have are based on being able to agree spending which has already been agreed by full council from an allocated budget to a maximum value of £10,000 and protections are in place that a minimum number of councillors can object, in writing, in advance to the delegated powers being used and as such there is no possibility of a small group enacting a policy which the rest of the council are unaware of. Since the budget each year is approved by the whole council, this negates any argument that this new system will be undemocratic and capable of deciding new issues on behalf of the council by a limited number of councillors.
Whilst the full committees, as marked, will have these delegated powers, no delegation of powers can be passed down to either sub-committees or to working groups formed by those committees.
Each of the two new committees (F&GP and CA) will meet once every other month, again, making the workload less stressful for those wishing to be involved in the important committee process.
The scope of each of the two new committees is fully outlined in the document you have already received, prior to this meeting, as is a list of Council assets which are covered by this proposal.
Assuming that this council approves this Scheme of Delegation this month, it is proposed that in the January full council meeting, that we trial this new structure for 4 months.. January to April, with new committees elected in January to carry us through to the new Council year starting in May 2021 when we expect to have, this year, a full review of all Council committees and roles for the 2021/2022 year which we were prevented from doing this year.
It is worth noting, finally, that due to the emergency of the last year with our special contingency proposals that have been in effect since the pandemic started, that this scheme of delegation is mostly as this council has been operating for the last 12 months, so it has already shown its effectiveness.