Agenda item

Member Role Profiles

Report of the Director of Policy and Democratic Engagement














































































































































































































The Committee considered a report of James Henderson, Director of Policy & Democratic Engagement regarding Member Role Profiles.


The purpose of the report was to set out practical actions to achieve the aim of ‘Improving how we explain the system’ from Action 1.3 in the Governance Review Implementation Plan.  The action includes producing clearer guidance on the roles and responsibilities for Chairs, Co-Chairs, Deputy Chairs and Group Spokespersons and how officers were expected to brief and interact with these roles. 


Jason Dietsch, Head of Democratic Services presented the report to the committee and advised that the profiles were an overview of skills and were not a definitive guide.  The Member Development Working Group were currently working on other role profiles.


The Chair invited Ruth Hubbard to ask her public questions and the Chair provided a response following each one.


a) There is no mention anywhere of roles or responsibilities in relation to LACs or how they fit.  This seems odd, particularly, as I recall, when LAC arrangements have their own section in the constitution. 


The Chair advised that –


·       We were producing a new role profile for the role of LAC Chair and would take the opportunity to think about the role of all councillors in relation to Local Area Committees.


·       The city councillor role profile did not specifically mention LACs (or other specific committees by name). However, there was a strong emphasis on the elected members’ role as representative and advocate and them building relationships with residents and other organisations in their communities.


City Council Role Profiile: “Purpose/role: 1. Be a representative of your ward and an advocate for the communities within it. 2. Communicate effectively and build strong relationships with local residents, businesses, organisations and interest groups, keeping them informed about the issues that affect them and representing their views at council meetings. 3. Provide community leadership and support the Council to work in partnership with local communities and organisations to deliver better services and have a positive impact in the area. 4. Empower and enable the communities in your ward to develop solutions and work in partnership with you to deliver improvements to the local area”


·       One of the points of reference for the work was the ‘21st Century Councillor’ which emphasized the role of councillors as being strongly rooted in their wards and communities and working in partnership across their locality.


·       The role profiles were not seeking to duplicate or replace the Constitution, the relationship with the LACs was set out in the Constitution. The role profiles make links to the procedures/terms of reference set out in the Constitution and the option to refer to other committees/decision making bodies, without being specific.


·       We had tried to keep role profiles independent of each other, so they remained fit for the future depending on any changes in committee arrangements.



b) There is one mention of 'equalities' (if one looks closely) but a pretty passive one alongside a bunch of things in relation to following policy.  Can't, and shouldn't, we do a bit better than this? 


The Chair advised that; -


·       Each role profile included adherence to the Councillor Code of Conduct, the Council’s equality policies and the Council’s values.


·       This was included as point 1 in the City Councillor role profile to emphasize its importance.


“Responsibilities 1. Adhere to the Council’s Code of Conduct for Elected Members, equality policies and Council Values; uphold the Seven Principles of Public Life and challenge behaviour which falls below expectations.”


·       The Code of Conduct was referred to in the role profiles and it included the role councillors have in relation to promoting equality and providing an environment free from harassment, discrimination, and victimisation and bullying and by treating people with respect.


Part 2 of the Code of Conduct; “Members must promote equality and inclusion by providing an environment free from harassment, discrimination, and victimisation and bullying and by treating people with respect, regardless of their age, disability, gender, race, religion/ belief, sexual orientation or marriage/ civil partnership status…


“The Equality Act 2010 places specific duties on local authorities. Councillors and co[1]opted members have a central role to play in ensuring that equality issues are integral to the local authority's performance and strategic aims, and that there is a strong vision and public commitment to equality across public services.”


·       We had considered equalities throughout the development of the role profiles and a summary of that thinking was in the Equalities Impact Assessment and the report to the Governance Committee.  


·       One of the purposes of the role profiles was to identify the learning and development, knowledge and skills and priority areas for member development activity and to make sure that these were incorporated in the member development programme. This included the need for all Members to have an awareness of equalities. Training and development in equalities was incorporated into the Member Development Programme and the MDWG was supporting the roll out of a level 2 equivalent certificate in equality, diversity and inclusion for elected members.


c) Scrutiny is mentioned simply as one of many responsibilities.  It's my view that incorporating adequate scrutiny into the committee system is currently a weakness (and I think there is some evidence and examples that could be cited in relation to this). Should scrutiny be highlighted a little more, and.....


The Chair advised that:-


·       It was acknowledged during the development of role profiles that, now the committee system was established, the responsibilities regarding scrutiny and policy development needed further work. The role profiles describe scrutiny as being part of every decision taken at a policy committee and a link to the Good Scrutiny Guide is provided for additional information and best practice guidance.


Role Profile – Chair of a Policy Committee: “Promote the four principles of good scrutiny (CfGS – The Good Scrutiny Guide) and encourage Committee Members to be involved in the pre- and post-scrutiny of all policies, budgets, performance and decisions relevant to the Committee, making Page 70 Appendix B evidence-based improvement recommendations as required and engaging with the public as appropriate.”


·       The Committee had also begun work on a review of Policy Committee Remits and the suggested scope of that work included a review of the key responsibilities of the Policy Committees and considering whether they were being delivered effectively, including policy review and scrutiny, policy development and decision making.


d) ....this piece of work is mooted as being part of explaining the system to members of the public.  However, nearly everyone will not plough through this level, of detail.  Could thought be given to overarching or executive, short statements that might be used for basic explanatory purposes and emphasise the most important points? E.g. something like "Councillors are elected to represent their ward areas.  They liaise widely with local people, communities and groups or stakeholders, play an important role in council decision-making, and oversee, scrutinise and review council proposals and decisions." (Or something pithier.)


The Chair advised that: -


·       As part of the Governance review implementation plan (GRIP), we were doing some work to review information on the Council Website which explained how the committee system works. We aimed to include a short summary of councillors’ roles as part of the review and rewriting of those pages.


·       As pointed out, there was a lot of information in the role profiles and the Constitution about councillors’ roles. The aim of the role profiles was to add clarity and detail to what those roles entail in practice whilst avoiding duplicating existing information.


e) One of the complaints of people out on three streets of Sheffield when It's Our City! were out and about across the city was that when they contacted cllrs they received no reply - or even that when they went to a councillor surgery the councillor was not there.  I note the emphasis on communicating with, and responding to, members of the public and a variety of contact methods is mentioned.  I know councillors can be extremely busy but I am concerned about over-promising and under-delivering which just fuels scepticism and discontent. This isn't necessarily a suggestion for the role profiles but can I make a plea, in practice at least, that councillors have at least one very reliable method of contact (whatever that is) perhaps over and above imagining they might be able to be everywhere doing everything all the time in relation to public contact?


The Chair thanked Ms Hubbard for making the point and advised that:- 


·       Each councillor had methods of contact on their webpage, which included email, a surgery or other type of appointment and preferred phone contact.


·       We also had a telephone point of contact for all councillors, which was based in the Town Hall 0114 273 5380. We acknowledge that this could be better promoted/advertised as methods of contact.

8.5        Members discussed the report at length and key points to note were:-


·       Clarity was provided around the Health Scrutiny Sub-Committee Chair profile and what its purpose was and that it should be recognised as part of the Committee system.

·       It was advised that the Spokesperson and Deputy Chairs needed to be consistent.

·       Time needed to be spent developing and scrutinising and that members should consider not voting on matters if they felt the matter had not been looked in detail.

·       It was noted that members should be supported in developing skills.


8.6       The Head of Democratic Services advised that a skills audit in the questionnaire would discover talents and would assist us in focussing member development and addressing the needs of new councillors.


8.7        Resolved: - that the Governance Committee:-


1.    reviews and provides final comments on the four role profiles of the City Councillor, Policy Committee Chair, Policy Committee Deputy Chair and Group Spokesperson;


2.    adopts the four role profiles and recommends to Full Council that Article 7 in the constitution be updated as set out in Appendix B, Role of the Policy Committee Chair;


3.    requests the Director of Policy & Democratic Engagement, in conjunction with the MDWG, identify the priority areas for member development activity arising from the content of the role profiles and to ensure that these are incorporated in the member development programme;


4.    identify any further roles where city councillors perform for which role profiles might be developed in the future and to ask the Director of Policy & Democratic Engagement, in conjunction with the MDWG, to produce those role profiles for future consideration by the Governance Committee;


5.    notes that the Independent Remuneration Panel will undertake a review of Members’ Allowances and to request that the panel:

a)    have regard to the new role profiles when reviewing the allowances; and

b)    considers whether the role of Group Spokesperson should be awarded a Special Responsibility Allowance.

Supporting documents: