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+1 vote

Our committees have very vague terms of reference which makes it unclear whether or not they have the power to make decisions on any particular issue.  I am told that this doesn’t matter, because when the committee minutes get approved at full council (without any debate) then this approval ratifies all the decisions made.   Is this true please? 

by (200 points)

5 Answers

+1 vote
No that is not correct as the minutes are only presented to full council for noting.  The legislation states that minutes are ratified at the next appropriate meeting - meaning a committee approves its minutes, full council approves its minutes. Local Government Act 1972 schedule 12 (41).  So unless your terms of reference give clear delegated authority to the committee, then the decisions are not being made correctly.  The only other way is for the decisions that feature in the committee minutes to feature specifically in the full council agenda.
by (24.5k points)
There is nothing in the legislation so far as I can see, that requires the next appropriate meeting to be the same type of meeting.  It just needs to be appropriate.  Could you explain why full council is not appropriate?  All the relevant people will be there.
The legislation quotes "same or next suitable meeting". The word 'suitable' is defined by the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 as a meeting that your standing orders considers to be suitable.
If you use the NALC model standing orders, this is covered in the section called Draft Minutes where it states that "The accuracy of draft minutes, including any amendment(s) made to them, shall be confirmed by resolution and shall be signed by the chair of the meeting and stand as an accurate record of the meeting to which the minutes relate."
We do use the model SO but I can’t see anything that specifies which meeting is the approving meeting.   Your interpretation that it is the next meeting of the same type, is logical and personally I agree with you.  But my council reckons that full council is appropriate.  I can’t find any convincing argument that it is wrong to do so.
Rosemary, I'd also draw your attention to the requirement for all business to be transacted at a meeting to be clearly specified on the agenda.  If you are, in effect, ratifying decisions taken at committee, those decisions need to be clearly and separately listed on your main council agenda.  If your committees don't have power to make decisions, only recommendations, you'd need to do this anyway.  As it stands, members of the public who look at your agenda for your main council meeting won't see what resolutions you're actually agreeing to as presumably it simply states that you are receiving minutes from the committee meeting(s).
This kind of thing is very much the reason why terms of reference need to clearly state exactly who does what, when and how.
0 votes
To me any powers have to be formally delegated to a committee under s101 and this is usually recorded/included in the TOR although the Full Council still retains the same powers . Also our Committee minutes are signed off by the Committee itself so dont quite know why yours are referred to Full Council
by (5.0k points)
This reply is not quite getting to the nub of my concern. It’s a fact in our set up that we have vague TOR and it’s a fact that the committee minutes are approved by full council (no scrutiny, just a standing item on the agenda to approve minutes). I want to know whether this approval validates the decisions made by the committee. Or, as suggested by MrsAbster above, whether committee decisions would also need to be formally placed on the council agenda.  I don’t want to stick my head above the parapet again without being sure of my facts. My suggestions to improve the TOR have already been rejected.
In all honesty it sounds like your council is trying to hide things under the radar.  Not a good thing.  I'm surprised your internal auditor hasn't picked up on this
+1 vote

Deep down, you probably already know this is a shady practice.

Firstly, you can't have something just put to the vote without a discussion / debate (there is 1 exception but this is not it.)  So whether committee minutes are approved at the next same committee (logic dictates even if a specific reg cannot be identified) or the next PC meeting - there cannot be an endorsement without even the opportunity fir a discussion.  

Second, what if none (of few) of the committee members are present at the PC meeting where the endorsement occurs or if none (or few) of the Cllrs at the PC meeting were present at the committee meeting - this is where logic kicks in.  If you weren't present at the actual committee that seeks to endorse its minutes as a true and accurate record you cannot honestly vote to affirm that they are true and accurate.

So the logic test fails...

Apart from that, committee can only make decisions which it has a specific delegation so to do.  If the ToRs are "vague" then is there even a delegation?

This practice sounds highly inappropriate.  

What sort of decisions are currently being ratified under this existing process?

by (21.7k points)
It’s not deliberate shady practice, just incompetence!
Thank you all for your comments.  I will brace myself to step into the firing line once more…..
+2 votes
Our council used to do this and they knew full well what they were doing. Committee minutes would come to full council to be ‘received’, later when we questioned why certain things were happening, they would refer us back to the minutes of full council meetings where we received minutes of the various committees and point to them saying ‘there, see, you didn’t read them properly’. We had thought that it was a quaint practice to let us know that the committee had met, and when we replied that the resolutions themselves hadn’t come to full council so we’re not approved, there was a lot of kerfuffle and sulking and I think that they went to the ALC and were told to do it properly - ie bring the recommendations to Full Council as motions for a vote.
by (1.9k points)
0 votes
I know of a council that did something similar. IMO it was deliberately shady. The ToRs were made deliberately vague, and the 'approval of minutes' was smoke and mirrors to give cover for decisions by the committee without all the councillors, some of whom were new and naive, realising what they were doing. The council was run by an inner circle of experienced councillors who basically duped the rest of the newer ones for a long time.

The ToRs should have no ambiguity. If decisions require full council approval, they should be brought to a full council meeting as recommendations explicitly presented for approval, not hidden in minutes that are then 'approved'.
by (1.7k points)

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