Agenda and draft minutes

Extraordinary, Dorset Council
Thursday, 11th June, 2020 10.00 am

Venue: A link to the meeting can be found on the front page of the agenda.. View directions

Contact: Susan Dallison  01305 252216 - Email: Susan.dallison@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk

Media

Items
No. Item

Apologies

Informative note: all members were entitled to attend the meeting but with the agreement of group leaders and in order to facilitate the smooth running of the first virtual meeting of the Full Council, the meeting was attended by a quorum of councillors on a politically proportionate basis. Other members who did not attend were treated as having apologised.

72.

Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

73.

Chairman's Announcements

To receive any announcements from the Chairman of Council.

Minutes:

The Chairman spoke of the unusual times that everyone was currently living in and offered her thanks on behalf of the Council to Dorset Council staff for the work they were doing to support the residents of Dorset.  She noted that many staff had been redeployed to assist in front line services including assisting with getting food and resources out to communities.  In addition, she spoke of the successful partnership working undertaken, made easier by being just one council, and she thanked workers in the NHS, care services and those in key worker roles in the community, who were doing the best job for the residents of Dorset.  She concluded by referring to the recent demonstrations held which highlighted that all lives matter and that the council provided its best services regardless of race or culture.

74.

Public Participation - Questions and Statements pdf icon PDF 43 KB

Business of extraordinary meetings of the Full Council – Procedure Rule 3.2 states:

“Unless the Chairman is of the opinion that an item should be considered as a matter of urgency, Full Council will only consider the business which is specified in the notice of the extraordinary meeting. Petitions, questions, deputations and statements will be accepted only if they relate to the business for which the extraordinary meeting has been arranged”. This means that only questions relating to the report on the dispensation to councillors for non-attendance at committee meetings will be accepted unless the Chairman decides that the matter is urgent.         

 

Due to Covid-19 the Council has put in place new arrangements to enable virtual Full Council and committee meetings to take place during the pandemic period and has introduced temporary standing orders to reflect the new legislation. Subject to the statement above members of the public or a town or parish council can submit a written question or statement of no more than 450 words which will published as a supplement to the agenda prior to the meeting.  Although the questions and statements cannot be read out at the meeting the appropriate Portfolio Holder will provide a response to any questions received  as part of the meeting.          

 

The full text of the question or statement must be received by 8.30am on Tuesday 9 June 2020.

 

Details of the Council’s temporary procedure rules can be found at:

 

Temporary Standing Orders

 

Minutes:

The public question together with the response from the Leader of Council is set out in appendix 1 attached to these minutes.

75.

Public participation - petitions and deputations

Business of extraordinary meetings of the Full Council – Procedure Rule 3.2 states:

“Unless the Chairman is of the opinion that an item should be considered as a matter of urgency, Full Council will only consider the business which is specified in the notice of the extraordinary meeting. Petitions, questions, deputations and statements will be accepted only if they relate to the business for which the extraordinary meeting has been arranged”. This means that petitions and statements will only be accepted if they relate to the report on dispensations for councillors for non attendance at meetings or if the Chairman decides that the matter is urgent.        

 

Due to Covid-19 the Council has put in place new arrangements to enable virtual Full Council and committee meetings to take place during the pandemic period and has introduced temporary standing orders to reflect the new legislation.        

 

The revised petitions scheme and procedures relating to deputations can be viewed at :

 

Temporary Standing Orders

Minutes:

There were no petitions or deputations to report.

76.

Questions from Councillors

Business of extraordinary meetings of the Full Council – Procedure Rule 3.2 states:

“Unless the Chairman is of the opinion that an item should be considered as a matter of urgency, Full Council will only consider the business which is specified in the notice of the extraordinary meeting. Petitions, questions, deputations and statements will be accepted only if they relate to the business for which the extraordinary meeting has been arranged”. This means that only questions relating to the report on the dispensation to councillors for non-attendance at committee meetings will be accepted unless the Chairman decides that the matter is urgent.                

 

To receive questions submitted by councillors.  The deadline for receipt of questions is 8.30am on Monday 8 June 2020.

Minutes:

There were no questions from councillors.

77.

Dispensation for non-attendance at meetings pdf icon PDF 61 KB

To consider a report by the Team Leader, Democratic Services.  

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Leader introduced the report and highlighted that this was a procedural matter, of which the proposal included in the report had received cross party support.  The Leader proposed the recommendation set out in the report.

 

The recommendation was seconded by N Ireland who indicated that he wished to speak to the motion at the end of the debate.

 

During the discussion, a number of councillors spoke to express their thanks and support in respect of work undertaken by the council’s staff and councillors and key workers in the community, for their response to the situation with Covid-19.  A particular point of thanks was noted to the Fire and Rescue Service in respect of recent fires in the area.

 

During the discussion, the following points were raised:

 

·                A point was raised that there was legitimate public concern that councillors were not attending meetings at this time and that decisions were not being scrutinised.  Questions were raised as to how residents were able to raise their concerns in a public forum between now and October and how the contributions made by ward councillors could be monitored?

·                In response, the Leader noted that most councillors would attend a meeting during this period and that the recommendation provided a safeguard position only if required.  He noted that there would be an Annual Meeting of Council in September 2020 and that Cabinet continued to meet and take questions from the public

·                Plans for the Council meeting in September were being considered, which included a possible hybrid solution for how councillors could attend the meeting

·                In response to a point raised with regard to the importance of local democracy and the restoration of committee meetings, the Leader noted that many officers had been seconded into other areas of work.  In the short term a number of decision making meetings had been prioritised, although in addition to these, a number of additional meetings had been scheduled

·                Reference was made to recent meetings of the Resources Scrutiny Committee and the Audit and Governance Committee.  In addition, proposals for hybrid meetings were being discussed

·                The point was made that the recommendation in the report sought to prevent any councillor being disbarred from being a councillor through no fault of their own.  In addition it was noted that councillors could continue to support their communities during this time and that this was of value to local communities.

 

At the conclusion of the debate, N Ireland spoke to express his support of the motion.  However he made reference to a recent meeting of Full Council held at Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council where all councillors had been able to participate and he felt that Dorset Council needed to consider its arrangements for meetings, including the Full Council meeting scheduled for September 2020, which may include a hybrid solution.

 

Decision

 

That all members of Council receive a dispensation in relation to Section 85 of the Local Government Act for the period up to and including 6 May 2021 for the reason  ...  view the full minutes text for item 77.

78.

Urgent items

To consider any items of business which the Chairman has had prior notification and considers to be urgent pursuant to section 100B (4) b) of the Local Government Act 1972. The reason for the urgency shall be recorded in the minutes.

 

Minutes:

There were no urgent items.

79.

Exempt Business

To move the exclusion of the press and the public for the following item in view of the likely disclosure of exempt information within the meaning of paragraph 3 of schedule 12 A to the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended).

The public and the press will be asked to leave the meeting whilst the item of business is considered.

There is no exempt business.

 

Minutes:

There was no exempt business.

Appendix 1 - Public Participation - Questions and Statements

Full Council – 11 June 2020

 

Questions and Statements submitted for Public Participation Period

 

 

Question - submitted by John Calvert

 

 

Dispensation for non attendance at meetings of Dorset Council

 

I am a resident of the Dorset Council Area and I remember instances of County Councillors not attending many meetings in the 'old days'

 

I do not understand why Dorset Council is being asked to introduce a blanket dispensation until May 2021.

 

If councillors are seriously ill throughout six months the Full Council could sort it

 

If councillors miss one meeting out of one then surely again the Full Council could sort it.

 

If councillors have difficulty with Virtual Meetings surely the Council's officers could sort that out.

 

If a councillor's committee doesn't meet for six months surely they can't be barred for not attending non existent meetings.

 

We need committed representatives particularly at this difficult time.

 

All in all, the question comes down to; What is the real problem, if any, that this measure is supposed to fix?

 

Response by the Leader of Council

 

I would like to thank Mr Calvert for his question, although much of what I will say in response is set out in the Agenda Report.

 

Full Council is being asked to approve a blanket dispensation for all councillors during the pandemic period to ensure that councillors do not fall foul of the 6 month rule during the pandemic period either due to illness or that the fact that the committees on which they serve are currently postponed. It is important to note that any councillor who does not attend a meeting in any 6 month period (regardless of a postponement of a meeting) ceases to be a councillor immediately which would result in the loss local community representation at this important time as all elections have been postponed until May 2021; Any dispensation for failure to attend a meeting in any 6 month period must be approved prior to the end of that period.

 

At the beginning of the lockdown period in March the Council had to put in place arrangements for the council’s committees to meet on a new virtual platform in line with the new coronavirus regulations put in place by the Government; due to the resources required to achieve this, and council staff being diverted to other duties associated with Covid-19, the council prioritised a number of essential decision making committees to be held virtually, which are set out in the report. Not all members of the council serve on one of these prioritised committees and some members have not attended a meeting since February 2020 which would mean that they would automatically cease to be a councillor at a date prior to the Annual Meeting of Council on 3 September 2020. It is therefore important that to avoid a democratic deficit the Full Council approves a dispensation to cover the period up to May 2021.