Agenda item

Improving our Democracy and Governance Practices

To consider a report from the Director for Digital, Sustainability & Resources, a copy is attached as item 6.


Before the Committee was a report by the Director for Digital, Sustainability and Resources, copies of which had been circulated to all Members and a copy of which is attached to the signed copy of these minutes as Item 6.


The Committee was informed that over the last two years, both Adur and Worthing Councils had developed plans and established new resources to enable the increased participation of residents and communities in policy development and decision making. New posts had been established including a Participation Lead and a Data Lead to improve our ability to understand and engage with our communities.


In support of the aim of continuing to improve participation and transparency in decision-making, an internal review by the councils’ Monitoring Officer had identified opportunities for modernising both Council’s constitutions, and this was about to enter the member consultation stage over summer 2022, via a Working Group, agreed to be set up by the Joint Governance Committee at its meeting on 31 May 2022.  This work would be carried out independently but with parallel timetables where possible for each Council.


Further, the change of Administration at Worthing Borough Council created a need to consider how decisions were best made in both the joint and individual authority arenas.


The report proposed the creation of sub-committees of the Joint Strategic Committee - Worthing Executive and Adur Executive - to which would be delegated in full any decisions solely affecting the relevant Council. The intention was that it would improve the ability for our communities to understand how and where key “place based” decisions were taken, and how they were able to more fully participate.


The new arrangements would be piloted over a period of 6-12 months during which they will be reviewed to assess the impact on communities, decision-making and resources.   

Options were also being developed for holding meetings away from the usual council buildings, enabling the Executives (subject to budget availability) to take decision-making even closer to the communities they serve, if they choose.


Both Councils continued to highly value the joint arrangements in place, and all decisions in the joint arena would continue to be made at the Joint Strategic Committee as part of these proposals.


Similar proposals were being developed for the greater utilisation of the separate Worthing and Adur Overview and Scrutiny Committees and/or the establishment of sub-committees of JOSC for individual-authority matters, whilst JOSC would remain the forum for all joint matters. This would be considered as part of the constitution Working Group, and may require amendments to be made to the Joint Committee Agreement, which will be brought to the Joint Strategic Committee as well as the Joint Governance Committee for consideration in due course, before being ratified by both Full Councils.


Subject to approval by the Joint Strategic Committee, the first sub-committee meetings would start in July and take place monthly, subject to requirements.  To ensure efficient use of officer and member time and costs, meetings would only take place if there were sufficient agenda items, or subject to urgency.


It was anticipated that the Joint Strategic Committee may be able to meet less frequently under the new arrangements, although this was subject to trial and review during the pilot period. 


Given the disparity in the sizes of each Council’s Executives, agreement would need to be reached on the principle that the same number of Executive Members from each council would be present at each JSC meeting to ensure equality of voting.


For information, it was expected that the reviews to the constitutions would be presented to the Joint Governance Committee on 27 September 2022 for consideration and onward recommendation to Full Councils for approval in October 2022.


The Leader of Adur District Council clarified that the Adur Sub-Committee meetings would continue to have a full membership of 6 Executive Members and would continue to meet in the Shoreham Centre.


The Deputy Leader of Worthing Council welcomed the positive direction set out in the report, highlighting that there was a movement amongst progressive local authorities to do more place based work. For a lot of people, the nature of the town hall was quite intimidating and didn’t necessarily feel open to the public. To be successful in the community, the Council would need to build successful engagement and communications strategies that let people in an area know that the Council was coming and wanted to listen and engage with residents. He believed that the proposed changes would lead to a much closer relationship between the Council and residents.       


The recommendations in the report were proposed by Councillor Emma Evans, seconded by Councillor Angus Dunn and unanimously supported.




The Joint Strategic Committee:-


a.     approved the establishment of a Worthing Executive Sub-Committee and an Adur Executive Sub-Committee, with the terms of reference as set out in paragraph 3.11 of the report; and


b.     noted the process for reviewing the constitutions and the proposed changes to scrutiny arrangements.


Call In:


The call-in deadline for the decision will be 5.00pm on the 17th June 2022.


Supporting documents: