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Apologies for absence and declarations of interest
To receive any apologies and declarations of interest.
Councillor Lees took the Chair in the absence of Councillor Coote at the beginning of the meeting.
To consider the minutes of the previous meeting held on 16 January 2020.
The minutes of the meeting held on 16 January were approved as a correct record.
To consider the scope of the proposed ‘Shadow Committee’ trial.
The Chief Executive summarised the scoping report in front of Members. She said the paper version tabled at the meeting included some additional points, highlighted by tracked changes, which had not been incorporated in the published version.
At its previous meeting, the Working Group had proposed establishing a shadow committee trial to provide an evidence base in pursuit of the overall goal of finding the best possible governance model for Uttlesford District Council. Decisions of the shadow committee would not be binding, nor would they be made public, as the purpose of the trial was to replicate the Executive decision making process via a cross party committee and to compare the outcomes of the decisions made. A number of practicalities had to be considered, such as whether the shadow committee would focus on one, perhaps contentious, issue, or whether it would be better to select a range of different decision making topics.
In response to a Member question, the Chief Executive said she had proposed expanding the scope of the shadow committee to all areas of the Council, rather than focusing on one contentious issue, as that would give Members an idea of what committees would be required if they were minded to change the current governance model. As there was only one Cabinet meeting left in the current municipal cycle, she also felt it would be appropriate for the shadow committee to look back at historic issues that had made their way through the executive decision making process to ascertain whether a different decision would be reached if the Council were operating under a Committee System.
The membership of the committee would also need consideration, with particular regard paid to the concept of political proportionality or whether the committee would comprise of the same membership as the GRWG.
Evidence would be gathered by interviewing Members of both Cabinet and the shadow committee to formalise their feedback. Notes of the shadow committee meetings would be compared with the equivalent minutes of Cabinet to explore how decisions were reached. Councillors and officers would be called upon as witnesses following the exercise to provide further evidence of their experience under the shadow committee.
Members discussed how to evaluate the success or failure of such a project and there was agreement that it would be very difficult to draw concrete conclusions due to the many variables that would be at play. It was not a controlled scientific experiment. A measurement of success needed to be defined.
The Chief Executive said the request for the scoping report had come from the Chair at the previous meeting, but it was not necessarily structure that changed working practices, but culture.
Councillor Fairhurst said it was a beguiling idea but he was not sure the experiment was valid and whether any conclusions could be drawn from the exercise. He said it could provide a distraction to the truth.
The Chief Executive said this was not a scientific trial but instead it was about demonstrating the different processes ... view the full minutes text for item 3.
To receive the GRWG’s timetable up to May 2020 and to consider whether any changes are required following consideration of the ‘Shadow Committee’ scoping report.
The Chair said the GRWG was no longer looking at proposing changes to the current governance model at Annual Council in May 2020. Instead, evidence would be gathered by way of shadow committees and a report produced evaluating the trial and making recommendations in readiness for the Annual Council in May 2021.
The meeting ended at 8.20pm.