To consider the establishment of the Westmorland and Furness Joint Committee.
Councillor Jonathan Brook, Leader of the Council and Promoting South Lakeland and Innovation Portfolio Holder presented a report which recommended that a Westmorland and Furness Joint Committee be established by the Councils making up the Westmorland and Furness Council.
As part of the Local Government Reorganisation (LGR) process, the Council had a requirement to establish a Westmorland and Furness Joint Committee within fourteen days of the Structural Changes Order (SCO) coming into force, with the Joint Committee being dissolved in accordance with the SCO, on the day following the first Shadow Authority for Westmorland and Furness Council meeting.
Councillor Brook informed Members that the Cumbria Monitoring Officers had recommended that one authority should host the Joint Committee and that South Lakeland District Council had agreed to host the Joint Committee meetings for Westmorland and Furness. He added that the suggested terms of reference had been attached at Appendix 1 to the report and were based on the content of the SCO laid before Parliament on 24 January 2022.
The report set out the Membership requirements of the Joint Committee, which would be comprised of three nominated persons from each District Council as well as the County Council. For South Lakeland District Council, the political balance of appointments was two Liberal Democrats (with one being an Executive Councillor) and one Conservative. Councillor Brook informed Members that the nominations had now been received and that those Councillors were himself and Andrew Jarvis for the Liberal Democrats and John Holmes for the Conservatives.
Together with the nominations for the three Members as outlined above, Councillor Brook moved the recommendations contained within the report, those having been recommended to Council by Cabinet. He was seconded by Councillor Tom Harvey, Leader of the Opposition, who welcomed the balanced political representation and the fact that the Members nominated had a wide variety of real world experience.
Councillor Mark Wilson expressed disappointment that the Council had not taken its usual view and had not included Members from all political parties. He further questioned the Terms of Reference and the Joint Committee’s purpose to establish a proposed Calendar of Meetings for the Shadow Council for adoption at its inaugural meeting, saying that it was not yet known what shadow committees would be formed. The Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) explained that all of these matters had to go through both the Joint Committee and the Shadow Authority, and could change depending on how the Constitution was set up. At the moment, she said that the Calendar included the Shadow Executive, Shadow Authority, Shadow Scrutiny and the potential for task and finish groups. Approval would first have to be sought on this and Members of those committees would direct accordingly. Councillor Mark Wilson referred to a recent County Council Health Scrutiny Board meeting and the importance of integrated care systems and the need for scrutiny arrangements to be maintained and improved in the new Authority. The Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) reminded Members that the sovereign councils would remain and that, with changes afoot such as the Health and Social Care Bill, it was a matter for Cumbria County Council whether they continued with Health Scrutiny Board meetings. She explained that the role of the Shadow Authority was to work towards vesting day and to ensure functions were transferred and that the transition was a smooth one. There would be a different role for scrutiny in the Shadow Authority. Councillor Mark Wilson referred to other bodies to which this Council did not send representatives, e.g. Coastline. There were, however, representatives of this authority at the North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority. He pointed out that there were many issues that the Council was involved with which related to its working communities, and he was afraid that something important may be forgotten. Councillor Brook responded, noting that there was a rigorous process being undertaken to identify and tease out all of the issues to which Councillor Mark Wilson made reference. The Council was trying to communicate as much as possible, and he pointed out that there would be more opportunities for Members to be engaged in further member briefings and so, hopefully, there would be every opportunity to scrutinise the process further. Councillor David Webster enquired whether the Joint Committee meetings would be open to the public. The Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) advised that, assuming the SCO was approved in March, the first meeting would likely be held at the end of March. She explained that there was one report regarding designation of statutory officers which may need to be considered in private. Apart from that, the reports would probably be considered in public.
It was unanimously
RESOLVED – That
(1) the establishment of the Westmorland and Furness Joint Committee, as detailed in the report, and the terms of reference attached at Appendix 1 to the report be agreed;
(2) the Non-Executive Functions within the Terms of Reference be delegated to the Westmorland and Furness Joint Committee;
(3) the Monitoring Officer, in consultation with the Leader and Chairman, be delegated the making of any minor changes to the terms of reference following consideration by other councils making up the Joint Committee;
(4) the Monitoring Officer be authorised to make the necessary amendments to the Council’s Constitution and to update the Council’s Scheme of Delegation in Part 3 of the Constitution;
(5) the following nominations be received and those appointments be made to the positions on the Westmorland and Furness Joint Committee in accordance with the political representation / balance calculation:-
Councillors Jonathan Brook, John Holmes and Andrew Jarvis;
(6) South Lakeland District Council will act as the host authority; and
(7) this Joint Committee is the Westmorland and Furness Joint Committee for the purposes of the Cumbria (Structural Changes) Order 2022.