Docstoc

SOUTH EAST ENGLAND REGIONAL ASSEMBLY

Document Sample
SOUTH EAST ENGLAND REGIONAL ASSEMBLY Powered By Docstoc
					Agenda Item SOUTH EAST ENGLAND REGIONAL ASSEMBLY EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE Date: Subject: Report of: 24 January 2003 Review of the Assembly’s Constitution Chief Executive

7

Recommendations: 1. 2. That the Committee considers what to recommend to the Assembly in respect of List A, below. That the Committee agree the recommendation to the Assembly in List B.

List A - Issues on which agreement was not reached by the review group: i) ii) iii) To amend the majority requirement for constitutional change to a two-thirds majority of all those present and voting. That the alternate member representing a constituent body should be from an under-represented group if the full member is not. To create five additional seats on the Assembly for black and minority ethnic (BME) communities, with four elected/nominated via the South East Race Equality Network (SEREN), on a geographical basis according to GOSE subregions, and one nominated by the South East Multi-Ethnic Business and Professional Network. RAISE should retain seven seats and re-allocate that currently nominated by SEREN. To enlarge the Regional Planning Committee to 25 members, with the maximum limit of external (i.e. non-Assembly member) committee members remaining at nine, as at present. That EITHER An office of Assembly Speaker be established, whose role will be limited to chairing Assembly plenaries, nominations to which post will rotate annually between the six party and partner groups of the Assembly, with men and women alternating in the post. OR – An office of Deputy Chair be created, to be elected annually by the whole membership, eligibility for which post will be restricted to social, environmental and economic representatives nominated by the two partner groups, and whose role will be to be the ‘first among equals’ out of the five Assembly Vice-Chairs.

iv)

v)

D:\Docstoc\Working\pdf\9d96a120-9468-44ed-b416-362c04e65bbd.doc 15 January 2003

Page 1 of 15

List B - Issues on which the review group was unanimous: i) That the appropriate clauses in the constitution are amended so that the quorum for meetings of the Assembly and its committees is set at a third of the Assembly or committee membership, the meeting becoming inquorate whenever the numbers present fall below this threshold. Not to offer separate membership to the Farming and Rural Issues Group or to the Construction Industries Council. That two of the current three places nominated to by the Regional Cultural Consortium should be offered instead to the regional arts council and the regional sports board so that they have direct board level representation on the Assembly. That nomination/election procedures should be left to the constituent bodies, while requiring them to be demonstrably ‘inclusive, open and transparent’. That references in the constitution to minimum numbers of committee meetings per year should be deleted. To replace clause 12.5 of the constitution as follows: The Executive Committee is responsible for carrying out the affairs of the Assembly in between plenary meetings. Besides the Assembly budget, therefore, any matter to be determined by the full Assembly may be decided by the Executive Committee on its behalf. vii) That planning policy matters should normally be determined by the full Assembly or, in between plenary meetings, by the Executive on the Assembly’s behalf, but not both. To insert a new section in the constitution as follows: Chair and Vice-Chairs Group The Chair of the Assembly, the five vice-chairs and the Chair of the Regional Planning Committee will convene periodically with the secretariat in order to give guidance on the arrangements for processing the business of the Assembly. This group should involve other chairs of committees, forums and groups, and other Assembly members as is from time to time appropriate. The Chair may take decisions in consultation with this group both on process issues and on urgent matters of policy. ix) That any interregnum between the Assembly annual meeting and before a committee meets for the first time in the Assembly’s year should be covered by reference to the Chair of the Assembly. To insert in clause 8.3 of the Rules of Procedure, which currently reads as follows: ‘Individuals with appropriate knowledge and experience who are not full members of the Assembly but who are members of a constituent organisation or network of the Assembly (e.g. a local authority, economic
D:\Docstoc\Working\pdf\9d96a120-9468-44ed-b416-362c04e65bbd.doc 15 January 2003 Page 2 of 15

ii) iii)

iv) v) vi)

viii)

x)

partnership, voluntary or business organisation) may be nominated to the Regional Planning Committee’, the following: No more than two such members may also be members of the board of SEEDA. xi) xii) To extend the term of office for Assembly members from two to three years. To add to clause 14.3 of the constitution: If a local authority withdraws its support after the budget has been agreed by the Assembly, the subscription rate per vote will be adjusted to make up the shortfall.

1. 1.1

Purpose and Scope of the Review The review of the Assembly’s constitution was been prompted by the Government’s White Paper, ‘Your Region, Your Choice’, which was considered by the Assembly at its plenary meeting in July 2002. Given the prospect of elected regional assemblies emerging in other English regions the Assembly agreed that it would be important and timely for us to review how, as a partnership assembly, we can maximise our legitimacy and capacity as the voice of the region. A review group was accordingly nominated to review the constitution and to report to the Executive Committee on the proposed changes. The group was chaired by Mike Geddes, former Economic Partners Vice-Chair. It convened twice, on 25 October and again on 13 December 2002. A list of those attending those meetings is attached as an annex to this report. The scope of the review was framed by the understanding that the South East has the opportunity to develop a model of regional governance which, although not in the foreseeable future involving direct elections, is nevertheless demonstrably effective and efficient. To be effective as an Assembly means maximising our influence, and in order to do that we need to show that the views we express and policies we adopt are as representative as possible. Above all therefore we need to be inclusive and open, ensuring that the diversity of the region’s communities is reflected in our work, and that the institutions and, as far as possible, the citizens of the region ‘buy in’ to what we do. To be efficient we also need to remain operationally lean and cost effective, minimising bureaucracy and making the best use of our members’ time. The issues covered by the review were grouped into five headings, as follows:   Voting - voting procedures and majorities required for change. Representation and participation - how well does the membership reflect the community we aim to represent?

1.2

1.3

1.4

D:\Docstoc\Working\pdf\9d96a120-9468-44ed-b416-362c04e65bbd.doc 15 January 2003

Page 3 of 15

   1.5

Committees and ways of working - can we improve the way we deal with our business? Offices - eligibility, procedures and posts. Finance - the impact of direct funding on subscriptions.

Consideration was given and recommendations debated in relation to each of these themes. In some cases there was a clear consensus on particular proposals; in other cases, recognising that all party and partner groups in the Assembly have particular concerns, there was an agreement to differ. The recommendations in each section are therefore split into two lists. The first list, (A), contains those recommendations over which, although there was a clear majority view in each case, there remained contention at the conclusion of the debate within the group. The key points for and against these changes are therefore expounded in each case, and the Executive is asked to consider these and take a view. The second list, (B), contains those on which there was unanimity in the review group. Since these were regarded as straightforward, the group expressed the hope that the Executive Committee would not feel compelled to revisit the arguments around these issues. Voting Issues on which agreement was not reached by the review group Voting in all committees is by a show of hands, one member one vote. Weighted card voting is only used in plenaries for the election of the chair and when a card vote is specifically called for. The group agreed that the rules of procedure, as recently augmented by the rules of debate, have considerably clarified voting arrangements. The main difficulty raised with voting arrangements is the majority required for constitutional change. At present the constitution states: ‘Alterations to the Constitution of the Assembly shall be made only by the Assembly on the basis of a two-thirds majority both of the local authority members and of the social environmental and economic partners present and voting.’ This condition is viewed by some as onerous and effectively allows a voting bloc within either the local authority or stakeholder components of the Assembly to veto changes which the majority might support. However others feel it offers important protection against changes that might disadvantage minority interests in the Assembly. Clearly the decision on this recommendation has important implications for voting on the other constitutional changes proposed. The group agreed therefore that it should be taken first. Recommendation A(i): To amend the majority requirement for constitutional change to a two-thirds majority of all those present and voting.

1.6

2. A: 2.1

2.2

2.3

D:\Docstoc\Working\pdf\9d96a120-9468-44ed-b416-362c04e65bbd.doc 15 January 2003

Page 4 of 15

B: 2.4

Issues on which the review group was unanimous Quorums were discussed. These are at present set at 25% of the membership (of the Assembly or committee as appropriate) at the commencement of the meeting. These are viewed by some as too low. However, higher quorums would arguably leave the Assembly’s business vulnerable to those voting with their feet, particularly given the distances travelled by members to most meetings. The group agreed that quorums should be set at a third of the membership (of the Assembly or committee as appropriate), and that this should apply throughout the meeting. Recommendation B(i): That the appropriate clauses in the constitution are amended so that the quorum for meetings of the Assembly and its committees is set at a third of the Assembly or committee membership; the meeting will become inquorate whenever the numbers present fall below this threshold.

2.5

3. 3.1

Representation and Participation The questions of representation and participation are distinct but related. Membership of the Assembly is not the only means of inputting to our work. Indeed, because we are already a large Assembly, some members’ participation is limited to attending three plenary events a year. On the other hand, it is possible to contribute strongly to our work, e.g. through the advisory groups, without actually being in membership. It follows that an inclusive membership as such is not the only way of ensuring that the Assembly is representative, and we should be wary therefore of responding to representational issues by simply expanding the membership. Having said that, the Secretary of State’s designation letter in July 1999 set out his clear expectation that the Assembly should make progress in ensuring that membership of the Assembly reflects the diversity of the region’s communities. Issues on which agreement was not reached by the review group At present, out of 111 members, only 24 are women (an increase of five from 2001-02), and three are from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities. Eight of the women and all of the BME members are social, environmental and economic partner members. In my view we jeopardise our legitimacy as a representative body, and we certainly put at risk our influence with Government, unless we take effective steps to address this imbalance, and are seen to be doing so. Because the Assembly comprises individuals nominated by constituent bodies, to prescribe the make up of the Assembly inevitably involves constraining those bodies’ freedom to nominate. In our last review of the constitution in February 2000, we considered proposals to improve the representativeness of the Assembly membership. A proposal that all groups agreed should be put to the Assembly at that time, was that in choosing their alternate members, rather than their full members, nominating bodies should follow the practice outlined above - i.e. where their full member was not from an
Page 5 of 15

A: 3.2

3.3

D:\Docstoc\Working\pdf\9d96a120-9468-44ed-b416-362c04e65bbd.doc 15 January 2003

under-represented group, their alternate should be. In the event this proposal was not carried by a sufficient majority in February 2000, but it is still favoured by a majority of the review group. The view to the contrary is that the freedom of the constituent bodies to nominate the most appropriate person to act as alternate to their full member should not be constrained. Concern was also expressed that those constituent bodies electing, rather than nominating, Assembly members might incur additional costs because of the need for a two stage electoral process. Recommendation A(ii): That the alternate member representing a constituent body should be from an under-represented group if the full member is not. 3.4 In addition to influencing the make up of the current 111 members, the review group considered the idea of increasing the membership specifically to achieve greater diversity. This is the approach that other, albeit smaller, assemblies have taken. For example, were we to seek BME representation consistent with the regional population profile we would expect to have some eight BME members, not three. One solution therefore is to expand the Assembly to include members specifically from BME communities. At present we have just one member so nominated, who is elected via RAISE as one of their seven representatives. There now exists a regional BME umbrella group, the South East Race Equality Network (SEREN), and it would be possible to seek nominations directly through SEREN. Following the first meeting of the review group, when this proposal met with broad support, discussions with RAISE, GOSE and SEREN resulted in the proposal that the Assembly should be expanded by five to 116 members. Of the five new members, four would be BME representatives nominated or elected via SEREN on sub-regional boundaries consistent with those used by GOSE (i.e. Kent, Sussex/Surrey, Hants/IoW, and Bucks/Oxon/Berks). The other would be a BME representative nominated by the multi-ethnic business and professional network administered by GOSE. The current place for BME communities elected via RAISE would be freed for an alternative voluntary/ community sector. The review group considered the implication of expanding the Assembly membership. Growing the Assembly by five new BME members as proposed does marginally alter the balance between local authority and stakeholder membership. At present this is set practically dead on the minimum requirement by the Government that no more than 70% of members should be councillors (we have 77 councillors including the three from town and parish councils). The addition of five new stakeholder members will change the balance to two-thirds councillors (including town and parish councillors) and one-third stakeholders. The review group could not reach agreement on this proposal. Those opposed considered that the Assembly is already very large and should not be expanded further; moreover to extend the stakeholder membership in this way would disrupt the balance between local authority members and dilute the democratic legitimacy of the Assembly. Those in favour considered that this modest expansion was justifiable in order to address in a very effective and demonstrative way what is considered to be a serious flaw in the Assembly’s representation of diversity, which itself jeopardises the
Page 6 of 15

3.5

3.6

3.7

D:\Docstoc\Working\pdf\9d96a120-9468-44ed-b416-362c04e65bbd.doc 15 January 2003

legitimacy of our collective voice. Expansion to 116 members would mean that the local authority to stakeholder ratio would move from the current 70:30 to 66:33; many members are under the impression that the ratio is a two-thirds to a third already. Other, smaller regions, such as the South West, have larger assemblies than our own, precisely in order to achieve inclusion. Recommendation A(iii): To create five additional seats on the Assembly for BME communities, with four elected/nominated via SEREN, on a geographical basis according to GOSE sub-regions, and one nominated by the South East Multi-Ethnic Business and Professional Network. RAISE should retain seven seats and reallocate that currently nominated by SEREN. B: 3.8 Issues on which the review group was unanimous Besides the diversity aspect, the group received submissions from two industry sector groups requesting direct representation on the Assembly. Firstly, the Farming and Rural Issues Group (FRIG) have repeated the request for membership that was considered but not conceded at the last review. At that time, members felt that the land-based industries behind FRIG should channel their views through existing industry representation, namely the economic partnerships, the CBI, FSB, and chambers of commerce. Efforts have also been made to ensure strong collaboration with this group through the Rural Advisory Group and officer dialogue. The South East Rural Affairs Forum provides a further channel for debate. However, FRIG continue to press their case. The review group for its part felt that the original decision not to grant specific representation to FRIG was sound. The second sector group seeking representation is the Construction Industry Council for the South East. Again, invitations have been made to the CIC to join appropriate planning advisory groups, but they continue to seek membership in addition. The review group agreed that the main difficulty with admitting industry sectors is that it opens the door to every business sector body. At present we have the region’s business community either represented geographically (economic partnerships) or through generic business groups. This makes the business representation overall reasonably strong; to increase it further may well provoke calls from other sectors for increased membership as a counterbalance. This is particularly the case given that the Assembly itself is a ‘foil’ to SEEDA, which is explicitly business led. The review group therefore decided not to recommend sector based membership of the Assembly. Recommendation B(ii): Not to offer separate membership to the Farming and Rural Issues Group or to the Construction Industry Council. 3.11 A further issue on representation concerns the Regional Cultural Consortium (RCC). This nominates three members, having displaced those previously nominated directly from the sports, tourism and arts bodies for the region. The Government has recently reviewed the role of the RCCs, and has concluded that they will stay in order to continue their strategic role.
Page 7 of 15

3.9

3.10

D:\Docstoc\Working\pdf\9d96a120-9468-44ed-b416-362c04e65bbd.doc 15 January 2003

However there is a question whether this provides too mediated a link between the Assembly and the various cultural constituencies. In the meantime the arts, sports and tourism bodies in the South East have all reconstituted themselves, and there may be a case for returning to direct representation from them. 3.12 Although acknowledging the valuable role the RCC plays in representing the breadth of cultural interests in the region, the review group took the view that the arts and sport are the two cultural sectors that are most important to the Assembly’s work. The group therefore recommend that each should have direct board level representation on the Assembly. The group agreed the third RCC place should remain as an RCC nomination in order to cover the remaining cultural sectors. The group noted that the new tourist board has agreed that the Assembly should nominate one member to its board, usefully enabling the connection to be made there in reverse. Recommendation B(iii): That two of the current three places nominated to by the Regional Cultural Consortium should be offered instead to the regional arts council and the regional sports board so that they have direct board level representation on the Assembly. 3.13 A final issue considered by the group under this heading was the legitimacy of representation. Councillors are elected to their council by voters in an electoral ward, but thereafter proceed to represent their whole local authority area on the Assembly. Stakeholders represent constituencies of interest and are nominated by networks or bodies, except in the case of the seven RAISE members who are elected via an electoral college. At present our constitution simply requires that the procedures for nominating stakeholder representatives should be ‘inclusive, open and transparent’. Representations were made to the group that all stakeholder representatives should follow the RAISE example and elect their members through the offices of the Electoral Reform Society. However the review group did not agree with this view and felt that the current requirement was sufficient. Recommendation B(iv): That nomination/election procedures should be left to the constituent bodies, while requiring them to be demonstrably ‘inclusive, open and transparent’. 4. 4.1 Committees and Ways of Working The review group considered a number of issues of Assembly process, with a view to ensuring that our growing volume of business can be handled satisfactorily. Issues on which agreement was not reached by the review group The merit or otherwise of expanding the size of the Regional Planning Committee was debated by the group. The RPC was deliberately created as a small committee both to develop a concentration of expertise and to ensure a regional perspective. While it is accepted that the RPC should remain advisory to the Assembly, or, between plenaries, to the Executive
Page 8 of 15

A: 4.2

D:\Docstoc\Working\pdf\9d96a120-9468-44ed-b416-362c04e65bbd.doc 15 January 2003

Committee, the deliberately small membership of the RPC has arguably placed the detailed burden of a large agenda on a small number of people, not all of whom are themselves members of the Assembly. In expanding the RPC membership however we should seek to avoid geographical areas claiming representational rights and their representatives therefore contributing parochially. 4.3 To maintain proportionality in an Assembly of two-thirds councillors and one-third stakeholders dictates that if we grow the committee we should do so to a figure divisible by three, namely 24. The question of town/parish council representation on the RPC has been pressed in the past. Town/parish councils do not feature in the templates and the constitution effectively provides for them to be accommodated at the discretion of the Executive. The group reconsidered this in the context of the larger committee. Templates showing the current make-up of the RPC and a possible expanded committee are attached as Annex1 to this report. The group could not reach a unanimous view on the proposal to expand the RPC membership. The argument in favour is that it will strengthen the legitimacy of RPC recommendations, and reduce the pressure for subsequent fora to reconsider the minutiae of regional planning issues. If expanded to 25 to include a town and parish council representative, it will also acknowledge the developing role in planning of the non-political third tier of local government. The argument against expansion is that this does little to lighten the burden of business on individual members of the RPC; meetings are already detailed and protracted, and with an expanded committee are likely to be more so. It is worth noting that both the Chair and the Vice-Chair of the RPC oppose enlarging the committee. Recommendation A(iv): To enlarge the Regional Planning Committee to 25 members, with the maximum limit of external (i.e. non-Assembly members) committee members remaining at nine, as at present. B: 4.5 Issues on which the review group was unanimous The group agreed that there is little appetite for more meetings among members generally; not only do meetings cost, in both cash and staff time, the more meetings we hold the less we can do of other things. The constitution requires at least six meetings of the Executive Committee and three of the Regional Planning Committee (RPC) each year. These figures were set before the RPC got up to steam, and it now meets as frequently as the Executive. The group agreed it should not be necessary to set such detail in the constitution. Recommendation B(v): That references in the constitution to minimum numbers of committee meetings per year should be deleted. 4.6 Our present constitution relies on the Assembly as a whole as the decisionmaking body, with the ability expressly to delegate matters to the Executive Committee. It states in clause 12.5: ‘The Executive Committee will consider policy and take decisions on matters authorised or as delegated by the
Page 9 of 15

4.4

D:\Docstoc\Working\pdf\9d96a120-9468-44ed-b416-362c04e65bbd.doc 15 January 2003

Assembly. Also, in exceptional circumstances, by agreement with the Chair and in consultation with the Vice-Chairs, it will deal with matters that cannot be held over until the next meeting of the Assembly.’ The function of all other committees, fora and groups is to advise the Assembly. It is the Assembly as a whole that is the Regional Planning Body; RPC advises the Assembly through the Executive Committee. 4.7 These arrangements have sometimes caused congestion. Committees that only have power to advise inevitably risk matters being debated at least twice. Although we have established a practice whereby planning matters normally go from the RPC to the Executive or to the Assembly but not to both, some issues are felt to be so important (transport, airports) that they deserve both the detailed ‘corporate’ input of the Executive as well as the formal endorsement of the full Assembly. However because the RPC comprises only a small number of members, some of whom are not actually Assembly members, it cannot reasonably be delegated powers to sign off policy on its own. Reference to the Executive or, as provided in the constitution, the Assembly Chair in consultation with the Vice-Chairs is therefore appropriate. The Executive, on the other hand, could have greater delegated powers, and for the most part under the constitution as it stands it is open to the Assembly to agree them. The exception of course is the budget, and the review group felt it appropriate that this should be reserved for the full Assembly to agree. However, the group agreed that there should be greater clarity in the constitution that, in between full meetings of the Assembly, the Executive Committee could act as the Assembly on all matters apart from setting the budget. Recommendation B(vi): To replace clause 12.5 of the constitution as follows: The Executive Committee is responsible for carrying out the affairs of the Assembly in between plenary meetings. Besides the Assembly budget, therefore, any matter to be determined by the full Assembly may be decided by the Executive Committee on its behalf. 4.10 Besides this change, the group felt it would be helpful to formalise the practice that policy issues are either determined by the Assembly as a whole or by the Executive on its behalf. RPC recommendations in particular should go on to one or the other for decision, not to both. Recommendation B(vii): That planning policy matters should normally be determined by the full Assembly or, in between plenary meetings, by the Executive on the Assembly’s behalf, but not both. 4.11 There will be decisions, principally about process but occasionally about policy, that need to be made when there is no wider forum available. The Chair of the Assembly, in consultation with the Assembly Vice-Chairs and, in RPC matters, in consultation with the Chair and Vice-Chair of that Committee, should therefore have the power to make such decisions on the Assembly’s behalf, and to account later to the Executive and/or the full
Page 10 of 15

4.8

4.9

D:\Docstoc\Working\pdf\9d96a120-9468-44ed-b416-362c04e65bbd.doc 15 January 2003

Assembly. The Chair and Vice-Chairs already meet regularly to give the secretariat a steer on policy issues and assistance in managing the Assembly’s business. It was agreed that the business management role of this group should be recognised formally in the constitution, and that it should include the Chair of the Planning Committee as a matter of course. Recommendation B(viii): To insert a new section in the constitution as follows: Chair and Vice-Chairs Group The Chair of the Assembly, the five Vice-Chairs and the Chair of the Regional Planning Committee will convene periodically with the secretariat in order to give guidance on the arrangements for processing the business of the Assembly. This group should involve other chairs of committees, forums and groups, and other Assembly members as is from time to time appropriate. The Chair may take decisions in consultation with this group both on process issues and on urgent matters of policy. 4.12 The location of Assembly meetings was discussed by the group; opinion seems divided amongst the membership on this point. At present, committee meetings are normally held in central London; this is the most accessible location by public transport and offers a range of high quality institutional venues that, importantly, do not have a local government feel to them and can cope satisfactorily with public access. Plenary meetings and workshops are held at various venues across the region; these inevitably require longer travel for some than others and a much higher proportion of participants travel by car. Feedback from our plenary hearing in central London on 4 October was very positive; however shows of hands taken at previous plenaries have confirmed members’ preference for travelling around the region for full Assembly meetings. The group agreed that opinion should be tested again in the second members’ survey taking place this month. Offices Issues on which agreement was not reached by the review group At present only an elected councillor can be the Chair of the Assembly. This eligibility rule is the only difference between local authority and stakeholder members and is a matter of principled concern to both. This was debated at length in the last constitution review and little has changed. The merits of various approaches to choosing the Chair were considered then, such as rotation instead of election, but the status quo prevailed. As part of this review, the Social and Environmental Partners floated the idea of creating an office of Speaker of the Assembly, as distinct from the Chair. Under such an arrangement the Speaker would only have responsibility for chairing the plenary sessions and as such would be the guardian of the constitution and rules of procedure for these meetings. It was suggested that the role of Speaker could rotate between the six party and partner groups, and could be held alternately by a man and a woman. With the exception of chairing plenaries, the role of the Chair would remain as it is at present, with the same election procedure and with the office restricted to local authority members. Consistent with the Executive Committee having greater

5. A: 5.1

5.2

D:\Docstoc\Working\pdf\9d96a120-9468-44ed-b416-362c04e65bbd.doc 15 January 2003

Page 11 of 15

delegation, the plenary meeting would be the place where the Assembly holds the Executive, through the Chair, to account. 5.3 During the group’s discussions a further alternative was proposed. This involves creating a post of Deputy Chair, rather than a Speaker. The Deputy Chair would be one of the two Vice-Chairs nominated by the Social, Environmental and Economic Partners, and would be the ‘first among equals’ of the five Vice-Chairs. The Deputy Chair could also chair those parts of the plenary meetings when the Assembly Chair is giving account to the full Assembly for the Executive’s actions since the last plenary meeting. The election of the Deputy Chair would happen at the same time as that for the Chair and in the same way, with the whole of the membership voting, but eligibility for the post restricted in this case to the two candidates nominated by each of the two partner groups. I believe all the group acknowledged the benefits of some change in current offices, but opinion was divided between the merits of the first ‘Speaker’ option and the second ‘Deputy Chair’ option. The arguments in favour of the Speaker option rest strongly on its complementarity with clarifying the increased delegation to the Executive. The Speaker can sit ‘above’ the politics of the Assembly, rather like the chairman or mayor in a council, leaving the Assembly Chair free to be questioned by Assembly members on Executive decisions. The idea to alternate between men and women would ensure some diversity in our plenary proceedings; it is not an uncommon procedure in local government, and could be managed through negotiating the order or rotation of the six party and partner groups. Importantly for inclusion too, all groups would have a go at the Speaker role. The arguments against the Speaker model are that it introduces confusing and arguably pretentious - terminology. The role of Speaker is very limited, with no political authority, yet the profile will be high. We may well get a year too when we have a Speaker and Chair from the same party group. Furthermore the proposal to alternate between men and women means that groups will not be able necessarily to choose the best person for the job; indeed the Speaker’s role will require skills that nomination by rotation may well not guarantee. The argument in favour of the Deputy Chair model flows from that critique. It fulfils, better than the Speaker model, the implicit objective of giving the partner groups in the Assembly a senior office role which is almost that of the Chair, without compromising the principle that the Chair must be an elected councillor. It is worth noting that the practice of having a local government Chair and a stakeholder Deputy or Vice-Chair is already followed in some other regional assemblies. The argument against the Deputy Chair model is largely that it does not achieve as clearly the separation of roles in Assembly plenaries between the Chair as chair of the Executive and as chair of the plenary meeting. Nor does it assist the diversity of the Assembly platform.

5.4

5.5

5.6

5.7

5.8

D:\Docstoc\Working\pdf\9d96a120-9468-44ed-b416-362c04e65bbd.doc 15 January 2003

Page 12 of 15

Recommendation A(v): That EITHER An office of Assembly Speaker be established, whose role will be limited to chairing Assembly plenaries, nominations to which post will rotate annually between the six party and partner groups of the Assembly, with men and women alternating in the post. OR An office of Deputy Chair be created, to be elected annually by the whole membership, eligibility for which post will be restricted to social, environmental and economic representatives nominated by the two partner groups, and whose role will be to be the ‘first among equals’ out of the five Assembly Vice-Chairs. B: 5.9 Issues on which the review group was unanimous At present committee chairs are elected at the first meeting of the committee each year following the Annual Meeting. This is to ensure that the chair has the confidence of the committee. However, there is clearly likely to be an interregnum between the annual Assembly meeting and the first meeting of a committee where the leadership of that policy area is ambiguous. This can create difficulty, for example, in the case of an ongoing dialogue with Government ministers. In those circumstances only the Chair of the Assembly has the legitimacy to take issues forward. The alternative is to elect committee chairs at the annual meeting. However this risks being procedurally cumbersome (does the whole Assembly elect a committee chair or just the members of the committee?), as well as time consuming. Recommendation B(ix): That any interregnum between the Assembly annual meeting and before a committee meets for the first time in the Assembly’s year should be covered by reference to the Chair of the Assembly. 5.10 The constitutional bar on members of the SEEDA board also being members of the Assembly was discussed, and the group was unanimous in its view that this should remain. However, recent SEEDA board appointments have included external members of the Regional Planning Committee. The Executive Committee, at its meeting on 13 December, agreed that, particularly in the light of Government guidance in this area, SEEDA board members should not be excluded from RPC membership, but there should be an upper limit on the numbers so involved. Recommendation B(x): To insert in clause 8.3 of the Rules of Procedure, which reads as follows: ‘Individuals with appropriate knowledge and experience who are not full members of the Assembly but who are members of a constituent organisation or network of the Assembly (e.g. a local authority, economic partnership, voluntary or business organisation) may be nominated to the Regional Planning Committee.’, the following: No more than two such members may also be members of the board of SEEDA. 5.11 A final proposal agreed by the review group relates to the term of office of Assembly members. At present the constitution provides for a term of two
Page 13 of 15

D:\Docstoc\Working\pdf\9d96a120-9468-44ed-b416-362c04e65bbd.doc 15 January 2003

years, which is renewable without limit by the nominating body. In practice local authorities tend to reappoint to outside bodies at their annual meetings, so this provision principally affects social, environmental and economic partners, some of whom hold elections for assembly positions. It was felt that the extension of the term of office would enable better succession planning amongst the partner representatives and, in the longer term, the opportunity to stagger terms to achieve better continuity across the partner groups. Recommendation B(xi): To extend the term of office for Assembly members from two to three years. 6. B: 6.1 Finance Issues on which the review group was unanimous As it was tasked to do, the group considered as part of the review the impact of direct Government funding for regional planning on the Assembly’s subscription arrangements. This matter is now covered in a separate report to this meeting of the Executive Committee. In summary the group took the view that we should revert to the ‘rate per vote’ system that was put in place when the Assembly was first established. In this system all local authority subscriptions are based on an amount per vote, with the district council subscription being the rate for one vote, and other authorities paying multiples of the district rate according to their voting power in the Assembly. Further consideration was given to the withdrawal of subscribing member bodies. Smaller authorities facing particularly difficult budget decisions may understandably review their contribution to - and therefore membership of the Assembly. In order to assist financial management, the group agreed to establish the principle that were a local authority to withdraw support after the budget has been agreed the basic subscription rate per vote should be adjusted to make up the shortfall. This principle was noted by the Assembly when it set the provisional budget for 2003-04 at the November plenary meeting. Recommendation B(xii): To add to clause 14.3 of the constitution: If a local authority withdraws its support after the budget has been agreed by the Assembly, the subscription rate per vote will be adjusted to make up the shortfall. 7. 7.1 Consequential changes and updating The constitution and rules of procedure require amendment not only as a consequence of any of the recommendations here that may be agreed, but also to make the constitution in particular clearer about the Assembly’s role and purpose. Sections 3, 4 and 5 of the present constitution are repetitive and, understandably, do not wholly capture the Assembly’s current and developing role. A re-draft of these sections was agreed by the group, but it
Page 14 of 15

6.2

D:\Docstoc\Working\pdf\9d96a120-9468-44ed-b416-362c04e65bbd.doc 15 January 2003

is suggested that a fully amended document waits for the Executive Committee’s recommendations to the Assembly on the issues covered in this report.

Paul Bevan Chief Executive 15 January 2003

D:\Docstoc\Working\pdf\9d96a120-9468-44ed-b416-362c04e65bbd.doc 15 January 2003

Page 15 of 15


				
DOCUMENT INFO
Shared By:
Categories:
Stats:
views:5
posted:11/4/2009
language:English
pages:15