Agenda item

Member Development Update


Ross Jago (Head of Governance, Performance and Risk) presented the Member Development Update and highlighted the following key points:



Member development work had been curtailed during the course of the pandemic however focused instead upon enabling Members to access meetings virtually over the period of lockdown;



the Member Induction programme had recently been conducted taking place after the May election with a slightly different approach whereby sessions were offered online with a focus upon afternoon and evening sessions to accommodate Councillor availability; feedback was welcomed;



the report set out the Council’s ambition to gain a chartered status for member development; the chartered status was assessed and awarded by the Local Government Association along with Southwest Councils and was considered a lengthy process potentially taking up to one year to achieve. It was hoped that a member development strategy could be developed with the assistance of a cross-party member steering group; further information was outlined in the report.


Members discussed:



the prospect of initiating a working party was welcomed as it was considered that the involvement of Councillors in member development would help to build a successful programme; Councillors knew the level of information and support they needed as different stages in their lives as a Councillor. It was considered that previously there has been a tendency to bombard Councillors with information having only just been elected when in reality at that stage they only required basic information;



it would benefit the member induction programme if it was extended over a longer period of time making it a process of delivery other than an event with a bespoke approach;



the relationship between the working group and the Performance, Finance and Customer Focus Overview and Scrutiny Panel was queried; was there a potential for the scrutiny panel and working group, both being a cross party group of Councillors, to create a conflict in terms of efficiencies and approach? It was responded that there was an expectation that Councillors would use their group meetings to have private discussions and agree a consensus or discuss issues and work collaboratively. The working group was also a requirement of the charter status;



it was considered that equalities and diversity should be included in the training programme;



was there anything that could be done to make training around corporate parenting, child and adult safeguarding and code of conduct mandatory? It was responded that there were limited sanctions that officers could follow to ensure that Councillors undertook the training however over the course of the member development strategy, if councillors felt areas should be compulsory then it was suggested it should be taken to Council so all Members could take part in that debate and vote upon it. Further discussion would be required as to how it was monitored and if sanctions were required;



it was considered that a more organic system should be created between officers of the Council and Councillors as a development opportunity to learn the role of each other and to enable better working relationships;



an area induction day might be useful to help build relationships between councillors and staff; this was well received and would be considered;



a mock council meeting would help new councillors and to demonstrate how council meetings were conducted;



political awareness and language used, specifically regarding officers and their understanding of the role of the Councillor, should be considered as part of the member development programme.


It was agreed that Members –



note the activity undertaken and planned development opportunities;



support the ambition to gain Member Development Charter Status and necessary strategy development;



support the creation of a Councillor Development Steering Group to report to the Audit and Governance Committee of the Council;



receive further updates outside of the meeting (via email etc);



receive for scrutiny at a future meeting of the Committee, a draft Member Development Strategy in advance of its approval (Reason: for the Council to formalise its approach);



recommend that the Councillor Development steering group:

·       considers what training could become mandatory;

·       looks at proactive ongoing organic type development of specific skills and understanding for Councillors

·       looks at how to improve the induction programme for new or returning Councillors.


Supporting documents: