Council to update and streamline its constitution

Kath Latest

Cheshire East Council has announced that it is to update and streamline its constitution – the legal framework which governs the way the council operates and how its decisions are made.

It says the review will focus on refining current processes and procedures to maximise efficiency, governance and transparency. It will result in the production of a new constitution that aims to provide greater clarity around how the council operates and enable greater community engagement with the democratic process.

Although the council has made regular updates, it has decided upon a fresh and holistic approach to developing a new constitution.

The council commissioned Bevan Brittan Solicitors – legal advisers to the public sector - to carry out an initial review of its current constitution and report back.

As a result, the council's constitution committee has now appointed a sub-committee of eight elected members to progress the review and make recommendations for any changes that should be made.

Final proposals for a new constitution will go to full council for consideration.

The council's Acting Chief Executive, Kath O'Dwyer, said: "We welcome the extremely helpful advice of our external legal advisers and will set in motion a comprehensive programme of work to review the current constitution, bringing together the recommendations and aspirations of elected members and officers."

Councillor Andrew Martin, chairman of the constitution committee, said: "Our intention is that this review will ensure efficient and transparent decision making and make the democratic process more accessible to our residents, members of the council, officers, our partners and stakeholders."

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Cheshire East Council
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Comments

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Nick Jones
Saturday 12th August 2017 at 9:31 am
Im not sure how streamlining CEC constitution [merely the framework that governs the way IT operates], will assist to show how Cllrs elected to protect the green belt then failed to do so, [governing the way THEY operate].
Clarity and Transparency must always be applauded, but there is significant evidence of community disengagement by Cllrs going back some time. The recent catalogue of failings, ranging from Lyme Green to Systematic and Manipulated Pollution data, Police investigations and everything else in-between appertains to CONDUCT, not constitution.

I have not met one resident [from a variety of political persuasions] who support the CEC imposed Local Plan, therefore I suspect despite good intent this will have very limited actual impact on key matters. ‘A fresh and holistic approach’ may require no more than Cllrs listening to their electorate and representing their views, not hiding behind political colours I would be interested to see the full report, which can obviously be published for consumption, alongside the commissioning documents and the financial costs involved. Again this reporting process has not occurred overnight and there has been an amount of pre-planning in this release, that can be clarified with publication of the relevant documents identified.
Julie Lowe
Saturday 12th August 2017 at 11:28 am
CeC already have a constitution which, I presume, sets out regulations, expectations and procedures that councillors and officers are required to abide by. In the last 6 months we have seen the suspension of 2 senior officers and the manipulation of emissions statistics. One can only assume that the regulations and procedures were not followed in these cases. I and others have ongoing dealings with the replacement monitoring officer who so far has exceeded the deadlines quoted in the procedures and a Section 106 officer who seems to have 'gone to ground' completely! Why on earth would the re-hashing of an obviously ineffective constitution (no doubt at great expense to the council tax payers) make these people any more capable of doing the job properly? So much time and expense has been wasted on the local plan that it has completely overshadowed the immediate problems we face in our community. Time to stop this blatant prevarication and get on with the job in hand!
Christopher Baker
Saturday 12th August 2017 at 4:08 pm
The guidance of the Local Government Ombudsman should provide minimal standards of conduct.

I have no expertise in the area of local government, but I would say that officers employed by the Council are supposed to implement policies under strategies accepted by Councillors -- who ought to be responsive to their electorate. What appears to be lacking is the acceptance of _satisfactory_compulsory_ protocols that govern decision-making and have been accepted as such by the electorate.

For example, the acceptance of proposals for building and development should be predicated on a prior and realistic assessment of, first, the impact on the the environment and infrastructure: transport, health, education and, second, the acceptance of accompanying and related proposals for the provision of the necessary resources either in advance of or in parallel with the actual development. If the population of an area is to increase, the health-education-transport requirements will increase proportionately and satisfaction of these requirements cannot be based on unrealistic optimism that everything will somehow work out satisfactorily. This is particularly true when everything is not working satisfactorily (in particular, school overcrowding, full doctor's lists, extensive traffic jams) prior to the change! Presumably, a "holistic approach" would go some way to mitigate the current profound inadequacies in this area.

The impact of Cheshire East on neighbouring authorities, and conversely their impact on Cheshire East, has to be integrated into the thinking. One cannot assess the impact of a development on a transport network without considering the entire integrated network and the developments that are planned for geographically neighbouring areas. I do not believe that a professional estimate of the effect of change is well-informed if it does not come with a statement of the margin of error in the prediction that has been provided (along with a statement of the factors influencing the conclusion).
Bob Jones
Saturday 12th August 2017 at 7:33 pm
Any CEC vaccancies for a deckchair attendant?
Terry Roeves
Monday 14th August 2017 at 7:49 am
Maximising efficiency, governance and transparency is much about great leadership and effective management.
Staff don't go to work to do a bad job.
It surely does not need a rewritten constitution and more of our money to get our taxes used for the good of CE constituents. Go copy one from another but respected council. It will be in the public domain - almost free!
Whilst CE continue to have very different vested interests to ours, nothing will change, even with a new constitution. Kath O'Dwyer looks quite afraid. I wonder why?
Jonathan Follows
Monday 14th August 2017 at 2:07 pm
The CEC constitution can be found at http://bit.ly/2av1bBu the current version (dated 22 May 2017) has 477 pages. I've not read it myself yet, but it appears to contain a lot of definition of "what" the council and its officers need to do, often driven by other legal obligations, and includes "codes and protocols". All of which seems sensible. It appears to be a single document used as a home for lots of purposes, but there's no fault in that if so. Apart from its length, it doesn't appear to lack clarity; it's hard to see how a revision would increase community engagement. If it were 47 pages in length it might find a wider audience but would probably omit too much.
In any case, "transparency" is a state of mind and a culture which comes from leadership and management, as Terry observes. It's also one which is very much not in evidence, in my perception.
An updated and streamlined constitution may well be an improvement over the existing one, but it seems to be action which would more effectively be spent in other ways.
Pete Taylor
Monday 14th August 2017 at 8:11 pm
Wasn't this one of the things that the massively-overpaid Kym Riley was supposed to fix a couple of years ago?

CEC is simply not fit for purpose and has not been since day one.
Nick Jones
Tuesday 15th August 2017 at 6:53 am
@ Pete ; Wasn't 'one of the other things' supposed to be fixed, the merging of the East and West Empires of our small county?