The Lead Legal Services Officer presented the above report, a copy of which had previously been circulated. He advised that the purpose of the report was to propose changes to Standing Orders in relation to the time for submission of Notices of Motion and to provide for amendments to Notices of Motion to be submitted in writing.
Councillor Boyle agreed with the proposed early submission of Motions referred to in the report. He queried the feasibility of the proposal in regards to amendments given that Members wishing to submit an amendment would not be aware or any other or similar amendments which may also have been submitted.
In regards to proposals regarding the Planning Committee he also questioned the viability of the suggested four-hour timescale for meetings with any unfinished business being adjourned to the following day particularly in situations where Committee Members had taken time off their work to attend the scheduled monthly meeting. He suggested that any decision in this regard be made by Members of Planning Committee.
Councillor Duffy welcomed the above report and felt that the proposals in regard to the submission of amendments would be feasible.
Councillor Harkin said that any proposals to limit the number of Motions being submitted would not ultimately reduce the level of discussion by smaller elected Parties. Whilst acknowledging the proposals put forward by Officers he questioned their practicability. He suggested awaiting a review of the proposals for inclusion in the comprehensive review prior to voting on the proposed recommendations.
Councillor Boyle said it was worth noting that the main aim of the review was to ensure better governance of Council and suggested that Council Meetings extending until midnight was not an efficient way of carrying out Council business. He said this was particularly unfair on Council staff who had already completed a full working day. He concluded that he would resist any attempt to prevent Members’ comments being heard.
Councillor Harkin said his Party were most sympathetic to workers’ rights who were required to stay late to fulfil their duties. He stated that whilst the issue had originally arisen in regard to the length of Planning Committee Meetings, arrangements must be put in place to facilitate all lengthy Meetings. He suggested that Officers, in conjunction with relevant Unions could discuss the impact on workers’ lives and ensure that they were not unnecessarily affected.
Councillor Boyle pointed out that he had been a Member of the Planning Committee for the past five years during which time operational changes and specific mechanisms had been put in place to facilitate lengthy meetings.
The Chief Executive welcomed Members’ comments regarding the welfare of Council staff. He assured that arrangements had been put in place to address the longevity of monthly Council Meetings for all staff involved. He continued that the main purpose for the proposed changes in relation to the submission of Motions and Amendments was to make Council more efficient and to assist Members to carry out their duties more efficiently. He concluded that Officers would ensure that staff were not put under undue pressure with lengthier meetings.
Alderman McClintock whilst acknowledging the length of Planning Committee Meetings, also referred to the substantial amount of paperwork associated with this Committee and the effect thereof. She welcomed any adjustments which had been made to facilitate staff but pointed out that such lengthy meetings were a massive burden on Members and she therefore supported a suggested cut-off time for Planning Committee Meetings.
The Lead Legal Services Officer pointed out that it was not Council’s intention to reduce the number of Motions being submitted and the proposed changes should not impact thereon. He stated that the suggested timeframe for the submission of Notices of Motions was to provide Officers with an opportunity to discuss with Members the content of the Motions submitted.
In regards to the Planning Committee, he advised that a more detailed report would be presented to Committee at its November Meeting. However, any discussion regarding amendments to Standing Orders would require to be addressed by the Governance and Strategic Planning Committee. He stated that these were interim proposals and would be subject to review as part of the comprehensive review of Standing Orders which will take place in the New Year. He concluded that any issues which had arisen as part of the suggested interim proposals could be addressed as part of the comprehensive review.
Recommended that Council approve the amendment of Standing Orders in accordance with the draft at Appendix 1 subject to this being an interim measure to be further addressed as part of the substantial review of Standing Orders to be carried out in January 2020