Agenda item

Executive Decision Governance Route


Andrew Loton (Head of Governance, Risk and Performance) presented the Executive Decision Governance Route report. Members were advised that the guidance had been produced in line with one of the recommendations from the Grant Thornton Governance Review:


“The Council should further improve its governance arrangements so that the number of key decisions are made outside of formal elected member meetings is limited, thereby enhancing openness and transparency”



The report was written in an advisory tone without wanting to inhibit decision making; a flow chart contained within the report set out what criteria needed to be met for key decisions and the best route to take in order to enhance transparency.



Key areas of questioning and concern from Members included the following:



who was the guardian of the guidance?




there was concern that this was a solution in search of a problem and the fact it was guidance meant it had no real force. It could also be considered as taking away authority from elected Councillors and giving it instead to unelected officers who were reliant on exercising their judgement. The advice and guidance provided could vary from one member of staff to another, increasing variation. It could be judged as clipping the wings of the Leader of the Council;



was this guidance for key decisions and not urgent decisions?



Members were uncertain of the legal status of the guidance; why was the report written to suggest that guidance was the best approach as it could be ignored;



when discretion was referred to in the report, there was no mention of recording in writing the decision process – an audit trail would benefit openness and transparency;



where did the guidance originate from?



it was viewed by one Member as enhancing the decision making process and was instead a list of points to protect the decision maker from accusations; it was important that decisions were robust and transparent and this guidance would aid that. If something different was required in the report then what should that look like? If this report was sent back for reconsideration, then Members should be clear as to what they wanted officers to produce;



would requesting for an amended report or further consideration of the report negatively affect progress?



there seemed to be a crossover between bureaucracy and politics.


Some Councillors raised concerns that the guidance appeared to work against the strong Leader and Cabinet model adopted by the Council and the report suggested that the Leader should not exercise the delegated authority for key decisions which was their right to do so. In response it was clarified by officers that the requirement to consider how key decisions were taken in order to aid openness and transparency was as a result of the external auditor’s governance review; the Council had previously undertaken two significant transactions whereby the governance around them wasn’t considered as effective as it could have been. This recommendation from the external auditor was accepted by the Council and steps were taken to address this. Members were encouraged to endorse the guidance for Executive Decision Governance Route as it was a measured proposal and sought to guide other than regulate how decisions were made and was prepared under officer advice in good faith. Members accepted the concerns of the external auditors and the resulting recommendations contained with the governance review report which led to this piece of guidance being written, however considered it was their role as a committee to consider the information presented to them and be satisfied with it.

The Committee raised several concerns, most principally it’s perceived curtailment of elected member decision-making powers. The committee collectively requested that its present content be reviewed/amended until it was again brought forward for consideration. Guidance was provided by the committee in that the amendment should emphasise, underline and strengthen the Executive Leader and Cabinet model.

It was agreed that the Executive Decision Governance Route report would be revisited in order to consider the impact of the guidance on key decisions upon Councillors, Portfolio Holders, the Leader and decision making within the authority so as not to undermine the strategic leadership or accountability of the Council, and resubmitted to the Committee for discussion.


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