(Democratic Services Manager) To consider the attached report.
The Democratic Services Manager presented a report on the co-option of independent members to Select Committees.
The Democratic Services Manager reported that the role of co-opted members was to constructively challenge the Council and Officers on service or performance issues. However, it was also important that co-opted members were appointed on the basis of their level of knowledge and experience of relevant issues so that they could make an informed contribution to debates. Currently, the Council had co-opted members on the Audit & Governance Committee and the Standards Committee. In addition, the Remuneration Panel was entirely composed of independent members. Formal recruitment and selection procedures were in place for each of these committees.
The Democratic Services Manager reminded the Committee that Article 6 of the Constitution permitted the Overview & Scrutiny Committee to recommend to the Council the appointment of non-voting co-opted members, and this process was followed to appoint representatives of the Epping Forest Youth Council to membership of the former Communities Select Committee. In addition, the Chairman of the Tenants & Leaseholders Federation (TLF) was an active co-opted member of the former Communities Select Committee. With the introduction of the new Select Committee arrangements at the start of this municipal year, the Service Director for Housing & Property Services had suggested that the Chairman of the Tenants & Leaseholders Forum (what is now the TLF) should be co-opted onto the Stronger Communities Select Committee, whilst the Epping Forest Youth Council was also keen to secure co-opted membership of the same Select Committee.
Consequently, it had been recommended that a report be made to a future meeting of the Committee outlining proposals for appropriate selection procedures and criteria for the appointment of co-opted members to the Council’s Overview & Scrutiny Committees. This would bring the co-option of independent members for the Select Committees in line with the existing arrangements for the three committees described earlier. The Members’ Allowance Scheme for the current municipal year provided for an annual allowance of £500 for co-opted members of an Overview & Scrutiny Committee; this allowance would only apply to a co-opted member formally appointed by the Council.
The Committee felt that it would be beneficial to have co-opted members on the Select Committees, as the Council was missing out on a potential wealth of knowledge – although it was acknowledged that the three new Select Committees had a wider area of responsibility than the four Select Committees they replaced. The Democratic Services Manager stated that he was examining examples of co-opted members on Scrutiny Committees at other Councils.
The Committee suggested that the allowance for a co-opted member could be linked to the number of meetings that they attended. The Democratic Services Manager stated that there would be budgetary considerations if a number of co-opted members were appointed, and the views of the Remuneration Panel would have to be taken into account.
(1) That the current arrangements for the co-option of independent members to the Council’s Overview & Scrutiny Committees be noted; and
(2) That a report be made to the next meeting of the Committee with proposals for the adoption of selection criteria for the co-option of independent members to the Council’s Overview & Scrutiny Committees.