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Agenda item

The Role of the Lord Mayor

Report of the Director of Legal and Governance

Minutes:

7.1

The Committee received a report of the Director of Legal and Governance on the role of the Lord Mayor. The report attached, as appendices, an extract from the Council’s Constitution, setting out the Lord Mayor’s ceremonial role and what was expected in his/her role in chairing Council meetings, and notes of guidance for the Lord Mayor.  The Committee had received a request from Full Council to consider the profile of the role of Lord Mayor, the extent of the role, whether the Lord Mayor was accessible to all and whether the present protocols were fit for purpose.  In attendance for this item were Gillian Duckworth (Director of Legal and Governance), Jason Dietsch (Head of Member Services) and Kate Sheldon (Member Support and Civic Manager).

 

 

7.2

Members of the Committee raised questions, and the following responses were provided:-

 

 

 

·                 There was a list, albeit not exhaustive, of duties the Lord Mayor was expected to attend, which were listed in the notes of guidance appended to the report.  Whilst there was no official requirement, either legally or otherwise, for the Lord Mayor to attend, it was expected, in line with tradition, that they should attend such events.

 

 

 

·                 It was believed that there was already guidance in place, in terms of requiring the Lord Mayor to attend such events, although it would be possible to look at implementing a Lord Mayor’s Code of Conduct as a way of strengthening such guidance.  The Lord Mayor remained a Councillor during his/her term of office, therefore was bound by the Members’ Code of Conduct.

 

 

 

·                 The Lord Mayor would be advised by the team of supporting officers and the Director of Legal and Governance, when required. The Council would always want to provide its Lord Mayors with an element of flexibility whilst undertaking their role. However, it was acknowledged that their primary role was to promote the City and, in connection with this, there should be a level of respect for such tradition.  Imposing specific sanctions could be viewed as being subjective, and the purpose of this report was for the Committee to look at what it wanted to see in terms of the role of the Lord Mayor going forward.

 

 

 

·                 The only way a Lord Mayor could be removed from office is if they were disqualified as a Councillor.

 

 

 

·                 Efforts had been made to obtain information from other local authorities on what they wanted from their Lord Mayors, but this had proved difficult.  It was accepted that further support could be offered to Lord Mayors.  The budget for the Lord Mayor had reduced considerably over the past few years, therefore any plans/proposals needed to be proportionate.

 

 

 

·                 It was accepted that the primary role of the Lord Mayor was to be a spokesperson for the City, and if it was determined that a Lord Mayor was not undertaking their role to the required standard, this could be considered through the Standards process, and ultimately by the Audit and Standards Committee.

 

 

 

·                 Some of the views expressed on social media, and referred to local Councillors with regard to the behaviour of the current Lord Mayor, could be seen as being subjective.  The Committee needed to give consideration to whether it considered that the current guidance was appropriate for a Lord Mayor in the 21st century.

 

 

 

·                 It was agreed that the role of the Lord Mayor should be non-political, on the basis that they were representing the whole Council, and the Lord Mayor received guidance on this.

 

 

 

·                 In previous years, the Council moved away from supporting the Lord Mayor’s charity, and made it clear to Lord Mayors that they were expected to take responsibility for fund-raising, collection of funds and the events that support the fund-raising. At the request of recent Lord Mayors, the Council was setting up a registered charity, on the Lord Mayor’s behalf, representing a more formal arrangement and an improved system of auditing/checking.

 

 

 

·                 Whilst it was acknowledged that the current Lord Mayor had relatively little experience of being a Councillor, having only been elected as a Councillor in May 2016, his appointment had not been based on experience. A points-based system, which determines which political group nominates the next Deputy Lord Mayor, had been in place since 2002.

 

 

7.3

RESOLVED: That the Committee:-

 

 

 

(a)      notes the contents of the report now submitted, together with the responses to the questions raised; and

 

 

 

(b)      in reporting back to Full Council, requests that the Director of Legal and Governance, in consultation with the current and former Lord Mayors, (i) produces revised guidance in terms of the role of the Lord Mayor and (ii) prepares a Code of Conduct for Lord Mayors, to be incorporated in the Council’s Constitution, for consideration by the Audit and Standards Committee, and subsequent referral, for approval, to Full Council.

 

Supporting documents: