Agenda and minutes

Constitution Working Group
Monday, 3rd December, 2018 7.00 pm

Venue: Committee Room 2, Civic Offices, High Street, Epping. View directions

Contact: V. Messenger Tel: (01992) 564243  Email:

No. Item


Substitute Members

To report the appointment of any substitute members for the meeting.


It was noted that there were no substitute members for this meeting.


Notes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 109 KB

To agree the notes of the meeting of the Working Group held on 25 June 2018.




That the notes of the last meeting of the Working Group held on 25 June 2018 be agreed as a correct record, subject to the addition of “before being referred to District Development Management Committee”, as amended below:


Planning Process Review 2017/18 Delegations to Planning Officers, Replacement Planning Delegations – CLD2 Replacement, 2. Applications made by the Council on land and / or property in its ownership which are for disposal, in accordance with the size of application set out in Article 10 of the Constitution (Min no 6) – Councillor C C Pond asked if all Council land applications could go to the Area Planning Sub-Committees, before being referred to District Development Management Committee.


Declarations of Interest


(a)       Pursuant to the Council's Code of Member Conduct, Councillor C C Pond declared a non-pecuniary interest in the following item of the agenda by virtue of being the Chairman of the Epping Forest Branch of the Association of Local Councils, and would remain in the meeting:


·                     Planning Process Review


Terms of Reference & Work Programme pdf icon PDF 46 KB

To review the terms of reference and progress with the achievement of the current work programme for the Working Group.

Additional documents:


(a)          The Terms of Reference were noted.


(b)          Work Programme


(i)            The Service Director (Governance and Member Services) advised that the Working Group would review the site visit arrangements of the Area Planning Sub-Committees (item 5) at the March 2019 meeting. The trial where members could request formal site visits prior to determination of an application had commenced on 30 May 2018.


(ii)           The review of the Audit and Governance and Standards Committees (item 6) would be secondary to the completion of the current review of the Overview and Scrutiny committees’ framework, which should be in place for the new municipal year, 2019/20.


(iii)          Gifts and hospitality advice (item 8) was still outstanding and might have to be rescheduled for the next municipal year 2019/20.


(iv)         Whether to update the Financial Regulations (item 9) would be on the recommendation of the 151 Officer. Any review would not be undertaken until the new level 2 managers in the Council’s management restructure were implemented.


Constitution - Revisions & Amendments

To note that the following revisions or amendments have been made to the Constitution since the previous meeting of the Working Group, pursuant to the authority delegated to the Service Director (Governance and Member Services).


The Service Director (Governance and Members Services) reported that he had been asked by the Chief Executive to undertake revisions and amendments to the Constitution in relation to the:


·                realignment of the Cabinet Portfolio Holder responsibilities to their new respective service directors; and


·                changes to the statutory roles of the Monitoring Officer and Returning Officer and realignment to the new service director structure.


These amendments to the Constitution would be reported at Council on 20 December 2018, as the statutory positions needed to be preserved. The Monitoring Officer would be asked to bring the Constitution up to date, which would be ongoing.


Planning Process Review pdf icon PDF 92 KB

To consider the report (attached).

Additional documents:


The Service Director (Governance and Member Services), S Hill, reminded the Working Group that it had looked at the existing arrangements by which planning applications were considered at the Area Planning Sub-Committee. This report dealt with issues that had arisen as a result of the updated Scheme of Delegation, Appendix 3, CLD2 for the Service Director (Planning Services). In particular, 3 (a) “Applications recommended for approval where an objection from a Local Council, material to the planning merits of the proposal is received and confirming in writing their intention to attend and speak at the meeting where the proposal will be considered”.


Democratic Services officers had been monitoring the non-attendance of local councils at the Area Planning Sub-Committees in relation to 3(a) above and since 26 September 2018, ten applications had come before members. On four occasions local councils had not turned up to meetings, one of which only had two items on the agenda solely because of two local councils objecting, who had indicated they would attend, but this had not happened. The meeting had been very short as members had agreed these applications should be referred to the Service Director (Planning Services) to be dealt with under delegated powers, but the meeting could have been cancelled. As the Monitoring Officer, S Hill, had not wanted items withdrawn from agendas in these instances once they had been published, the Working Group was requested to consider the following options to address this unforeseen situation:


(a)     that relevant applications be automatically referred (without any consideration of the merits of the development proposal) to the Service Director (Planning Services) for determination in accordance with the Scheme of Delegation; or


(b)     that the Area Plans Sub-Committees be authorised to consider and determine relevant applications on the basis of the information set out in the report of the Service Director (Planning Services) and presented at the meeting by the Principal Planning Officer (and external speakers where relevant).


There was general consensus in favour of option (a), but discussion between the Working Group raised the following points.


·                Local councils had raised their concerns at the Local Councils’ Liaison Committee because when they had made their objections to Planning Services they would not have been aware they were the only objector.


·                It was frustrating when a local council read out the same objection that had been published in the agenda report.


·                Parish councils were not clear about what they should be doing, and were not putting an objection forwards because they did not want to address a planning committee.


·                A local council could object but if it did not intend to register to speak then delegation 3(b) should hold sway, in that the local council objection would have to be “supported by at least one non-councillor resident, with material planning reasons”.


·                Option (b) wasn’t the intended outcome.


·                If (a) was the preferred option that words to the effect of ‘but stand referred to officers on the non-attendance of that local council at an Area Planning  ...  view the full minutes text for item 13.


Petition Scheme pdf icon PDF 93 KB

To consider the report and the revised version of the Petition Scheme (attached).

Additional documents:


The Council’s Petition Scheme, adopted on 14 December 2010 in accordance with the requirements of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 as part of a duty to promote democracy, was reviewed by the Governance Select Committee (GSC) on 23 October 2018. Feedback from neighbouring local authorities on the handling of petitions and signature thresholds used suggested that generally a low number of petitions were received. Therefore, no changes were made to the current threshold levels.


The existing guidance for the Petition Scheme was also reviewed to ensure it was clear and consistent with the revised scheme that had incorporated previous separate guidance on the creation of e-petitions. However, as a result that many of the petitions received related to services provided by other authorities, e.g. Essex County Council (highway issues) and North Essex Parking Partnership (parking enforcement), which would not meet some of the acceptance criteria, the revised scheme also included a list of the main functions of local authorities and was appended to the agenda.


The Service Director (Governance and Member Services) indicated that a petition on a matter that was the responsibility of another statutory provider might be accepted if it sought the District to put pressure on that authority, in terms of its community leadership role. He also advised of a further amendment to the Petition Scheme at 2.1 ‘that the proper officer for petitions should state the Service Manager (Governance)’ to replace Service Director (Governance and Member Services), as he would be leaving the Council at the end of December 2018, which was agreed.


Once agreed, the revised Petition Scheme would be publicised on the Council’s website to increase public, member and officer awareness, since Democratic Services often received these indirectly from ward members or other officers.


Members raised the following points about the Petition Scheme, which were agreed:


·                Header at (4), Exceptions to Petitions, would be better described as ‘Areas on which Petitions will not be excepted’ or ‘Petitions can only be accepted on…’


·                (4c) appeared cumbersome and it would be better to put the section in brackets at the end of the sentence, possibly without the brackets.


·                At (3.2), (5.1) and (6.), perhaps use ‘lead petitioner’ in these sentences as that would be aimed at the person submitting the petition.


·                At (6.6) a full stop was required in the opening sentence after ‘days’.


·                A request that (6.8) was observed and petitions went into the Council Bulletin to keep members informed and that Portfolio Holders would also report as shown at (7).


·                That the Democratic Services Manager, S Tautz, be informed of these amendments.




            That the Council be requested to adopt the revised version of the Petition Scheme for inclusion within the Constitution.


Appointment of Honorary Aldermen and Alderwomen pdf icon PDF 351 KB

To consider the report and proposed scheme (attached).


Following a motion moved by Councillor J Philip and seconded by Councillor C Whitbread, which was adopted by Council on 1 November 2018, the Working Group was asked to consider a proposed scheme to confer the title of Honorary Alderman or Alderwoman.


The Service Director (Governance and Member Services) reported that there was currently no formal method of recognising past eminent or notable service. Presently the only formal method of recognising the past service of a former councillor was by length of service and the issuing of a lapel badge when a member stood down or was not elected. The issuing criteria was used below:


·                Bronze lapel badge for 10 years’ service;

·                Silver lapel badge for 15 years’ service; and

·                Gold lapel badge for 20 years’ service.


The Local Government Act 1972, under section 249, allowed the Council to confer the title of Honorary Alderman (or Alderwoman) on persons who had, in the opinion of Council, rendered ‘eminent services’ to the Authority as past members of the Authority but who were not then members of the Authority.


It was a Council decision to confer the title which had to be passed at a meeting specially convened for the purpose (i.e. an extraordinary meeting) and approved by vote by not less than two-thirds of the members present. An Honorary Alderman could attend and take part in such civic ceremonies as the authority might from time to time decide but, as such, had no right to:


(i)      attend meetings of Council, Cabinet or Committee other than as a member of the public,

(ii)      receive any of the allowances or other payments to which Councillors were entitled.


Section 249(2) provided that such an honour could only be held by someone who was not a serving Councillor of the Council. As such, were a recipient to be re-elected or co-opted back onto the Council, they would lose the title bestowed.


Members might wish to add further criteria, but the suggestion was that there should be some criteria by which an application could be judged, which were listed below:


(i)      No longer a serving Councillor; and

(ii)      To have served at least five consecutive terms of office (i.e. above the level of Gold service); or

(iii)     Had held a significant position of public responsibility within the Council, for a minimum period of one year; or

(iv)    Had provided demonstrable eminent service to the Council throughout a long and distinguished period of public service; and

(iv)    The proposed recipient must be willing to accept their nomination.


The recipient would need to be willing to accept the honorary title before Council. It was an honour to receive this title and should therefore not become a political matter. Appropriate consultations with Group Leaders on nominations would be required. The Alderman / Alderwoman would be presented with a Badge of Office and their name entered into the Roll of Honour, which would be maintained by the proper officer.


Honorary Aldermen were entitled to wear  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15.


Date of Next Meeting

To note that the next meeting of the Working Group will be held at 7pm on 28 March 2019.


It was noted that the next meeting of the Working Group would be held on 28 March 2019 at 7pm.