The report of the Service Manager – Corporate Services is attached.
The Service Manager – Corporate Services presented a report to update the Group on the current position in regard to Councillor Learning and Development.
The Service Manager – Corporate Services reminded the Group that the Council at its meeting in July 2021 adopted a new Councillor Learning and Development Policy. The Policy contains a number of key learning and Development Principles including the completion of all mandatory training within 12 months of becoming a Councillor, which was extended to December 2021 due to Covid-19. A dispensation for training undertaken with other employers was also included to avoid the need for Councillors to do mandatory training such as GDPR more than once.
A table was provided that shows Councillors’ progress towards completing mandatory or essential training in line with the Councillors’ Learning and Development Policy. The Service Manager – Corporate Services highlighted five mandatory sessions which Councillors must undertake before serving on a specific committee: These are for Planning, Licensing, Standards, Employment Appeals and Interviewing Committees. In addition, the Group were advised of five essential face-to-face training sessions: Budget Briefing and Enforcement Briefings that all Councillors must attend and three sessions that are open to all Councillors but are only essential if certain committee positions are held, these are: scrutiny training, treasury management and risk management training.
The Service Manager – Corporate Services advised the Group that the Council’s internal auditors conducted an audit on the Council’s Corporate Governance arrangements. This resulted in a ‘moderate rating’ of assurance and concluded that there was a medium risk that Councillors had not received adequate training and development to fulfil their roles. The auditors made three recommendations as follows:
· A schedule of Member training, which prioritises Members on Regulatory Committees should be monitored by the Member Development Group, and Chairs of the respective Committees
· After a reasonable time (approx. 3 months), non-compliance with training should be reported to the Standards Committee.
· The Council should ensure that all future training for Councillors is included in the central training spreadsheet
The audit findings were reported to Governance Scrutiny Group at its meeting in November 2021. Since then the following actions have been undertaken:
· A planning training event was held on 19 January 2021 and was attended by 27 Councillors (one councillor nominated to the committee has still not received the mandatory training)
· Licensing training booked for April 2022 (unable to schedule earlier due to staffing issue)
· A skills audit for Governance Scrutiny Group members will be undertaken after Annual Council to ensure the right mix and level of skills is present within the Group (this is in line with new Treasury Management Code requirements).
Members asked specific questions in respect of Councillor engagement and commented that individuals learn in different ways. It was suggested that the word training be replaced by development or update and that a combination of face-to-face and online sessions were a good format going forward.
In respect of e-learning there was a mix of views from members, some really disliked e-learning and found the process cumbersome, advising that there were issues with multiple login stages and passwords, and some members experienced issues with completing the modules. It was suggested that Councillors be provided with a link that would direct them to the relevant e-learning, whether it be mandatory (GDPR) or essential learning. The Service Manager – Corporate Services confirmed that this was already being looked in to by ICT.
Members were asked for their view on introducing sanctions to encourage attendance at training sessions. Members expressed that Councillors did not do the work for the money and holding back their allowance due to non-attendance at training sessions would not work. It was noted that Councillor attendance at meetings was recorded and published to the Council website.
Members welcomed the Councillors individual training records and found the information within it useful. It was suggested that reminders be sent to members in respect of mandatory e-learning and perhaps a traffic light system be introduced to manage Councillors development expectations and sharing this information with Committee Group Chairs to encourage and remind members to attend any specific training sessions required to fulfil their roles.
In respect of improvements to Councillor development post 2023 induction and whether any changes to the induction programme were required, The Service Manager – Corporate Services asked for members thoughts on whether the programme could be condensed from 6 weeks to 2 days, perhaps over the weekend post-election, with follow up training over the year. Members advised that this would not suit all and did not think asking a new Councillor to attend a 2 day or weekend session immediately after a busy election was appropriate.
Members were in agreement that a planned programme was required, using a combination of intensive training initially, using good quality presenters/officers and perhaps encourage existing Councillors to share their wealth of experience either in small group sessions or as a one-to-one format, following up with further development sessions over the year. It was also suggested that new candidates be encouraged to attend Council meetings, so they have a basic understanding of what being a Councillor involves.
It was RESOLVED that the Member Development Group:
a) Noted and approved the information provided by officers in relation to Councillor Learning and Development.
b) Provided actions and ideas that addressed the concerns raised in the officers report in relation to Councillor Learning and Development.