To consult with the members of the Democracy Services Committee on a draft framework for holding meetings and committees with Members in the future.
To accept the report.
To accept the report.
An overview of the logic behind the report was provided by the Head of Democracy Services. It was noted that the purpose of the report was to introduce a framework to hold committee meetings in the future. It was explained that the vast proportion would be held virtually; however, it was recognised that some would occasionally be required to be held on a face-to-face basis.
The report was submitted by the Democracy and Language Manager, who discussed the draft principles to hold committees and meetings in the current and future position. The different types of potential situations were discussed and which committees would be likely to return to a face-to-face basis when it would be possible to do so. It was noted that the exceptions to virtual committees and meetings would be the meetings of the Full Council, Employment Appeal Committees (depending on the appellant's wishes), Licensing Sub-committee (depending on the appellant's wishes) and the Chief Officers' Appointment Committee (when conducting interviews).
The need to reinforce the right and duty of members to speak Welsh at each meeting was added. It was added that this was vitally important, especially within regional committees and meetings as others needed to be promoted to use the Welsh language in order to normalise it.
During the discussion, the following observations were made by members:
- The members expressed their thanks for the report and it was noted that this was a huge change as Council committees and meetings had been held on a face-to-face basis since the start.
- Some concerns were raised, especially the situation for new members. It was added that the office and chamber environment was an opportunity to network and chat with fellow members; this may be a loss to some such as new members who needed to get to know members and officers at the beginning of their term.
- It was asked whether officers would experience the same changes in their methods of working as members, i.e. would they continue to meet virtually after restrictions lifted?
- It was proposed that it would be essential to meet on a face–to-face basis occasionally in order to challenge and scrutinise.
- It was noted that the availability of Teams facilitated contact with officers during the current period as it was more personal than a telephone call.
- It was enquired whether it would be possible to arrange a training session for members on using Zoom?
- The importance of reminding organisers of the right to use the Welsh language within virtual meetings was reiterated. This was reinforced by proposing that it should be added to the virtual meetings protocol.
- It was noted that the availability of officers needed to be ensured before formally changing to virtual arrangements, as they were not always available via a quick e-mail.
- It was asked if everyone, including members and officers, had been asked about their personal opinion on moving to a permanent virtual method in future.
The following responses were received to the observations:
- It was confirmed that requests would be considered if there would be a need to hold face-to-face meetings, especially in cases when it would be necessary.
- It was noted that officers would not return to former arrangements in the office where there was no need to do so. It was reiterated that services were in the process of identifying what functions could be undertaken from home just as successful as in the office.
- It was accepted that it was not appropriate for everyone to adapt their work model; however, managers were in the process of assessing this.
- It was confirmed that it would be possible to work beyond the proposed framework, for example, following an election to induct new members. This would be necessary in order for them to hold conversations and meetings with returning members, officers and new members.
- In response to an observation regarding the availability of officers, it was noted that contact numbers remained the same, therefore, it was possible to contact officers directly should the e-mail method be too slow.
- It was ensured that the service would commit to review the framework should the need arise.