The Head of Legal and Democratic Services presented a report on a review of the Constitution. He said a number of changes were required to ensure the Constitution was up to date, and to reflect decisions taken throughout the year. An Officer working group had considered the necessary changes for presentation to Council, as set out in the report. There had also been new legislation as a result of the Coronavirus crisis, which amended councils’ standing orders automatically. However, as a point of best practice, the recommendation sought Members’ confirmation that the standing orders were amended to reflect any provisions of the legislation which were relevant to the Council’s Constitution.
Councillor Cutting proposed a motion supporting the recommendations. Councillor Snowdon seconded the motion.
Councillor Goldspink said the Liberal Democrat Group supported these recommendations, and she noted that future changes to the Constitution could be agreed by Council, if required at a later date.
Councillor Andrews said he welcomed the report. However, he drew attention to a proposed increase in the amount of write offs for unrecoverable debts which the Chief Financial Officer had authority to decide, from £10K to £25K.
Councillor Kemp asked officers to advise what the write off limit had been in the past.
The Head of Strategic Finance and Property said the change to £25K was in line with the delegated authority limit for many other district councils. In practice, exercise of such authority was not required often, and if Members preferred that the level remain at £10K this would not be problematic.
Councillor Pope said he agreed with Councillor Andrews and favoured leaving the limit unchanged.
Councillor Cutting said write offs of over £10K represented significant amounts of money, and agreed the current limit should be retained.
In response to a question from Councillor Beckett, Councillor E Buckmaster said this was a matter of process, as irrecoverable debt could not, by its very nature, be recovered. As long as the process was robust, he had no objection to the authorisation limit being increased to £25K.
Councillor Ward-Booth proposed an amendment to the motion, that the amount of the write off limit be £10K, rather than £25K.
Councillor Devonshire seconded the amendment.
Councillor Andrews said the appropriate body should receive for noting any decision for a write off of an amount of up to £10K. Councillor Ward–Booth consented to alter his amendment to add the words “and exercise of delegation of such write offs to be reported to the Audit and Governance Committee”.
The amendment being put to the meeting, and a vote taken, it was declared CARRIED.
RESOLVED – (A) that the updates and consequential amendments to the Constitution identified in the attached appendices be approved, subject to the write off limit for the Chief Financial Officer to remain at £10K and exercise of delegation of such write offs to be reported to the Audit and Governance Committee.
At a later point in the meeting, it was noticed that the substantive motion had not been voted on immediately after the amendment had been carried. The Chairman being alerted to this fact, the substantive motion was put to the meeting, and a vote taken. The substantive motion was declared CARRIED.
Resolved – (A) that the updates and consequential amendments to the Constitution identified in the attached appendices be approved, subject to the write off limit for the Chief Financial Officer to remain at £10K and exercise of delegation of such write offs to be reported to the Audit and Governance Committee..
(B) that in respect of the legislation introduced to permit meetings to be conducted remotely, the Council’s standing orders be deemed amended to enable its public meetings to be conducted remotely in accordance with protocols to be decided by the Chief Executive;
(C) that authority to make any minor related changes to the Constitution is given to the Head of Legal and Democratic Services.