Report of the Service Manager – Corporate Services
The Service Manager Corporate Services referred to the induction process for newly elected Councillors, and specifically the Councillor’s Handbook which set out all of the basic information that a Councillor needed to know immediately upon election. She confirmed that the Council was proposing to keep the handbook and asked if Members of the Group would support that decision and if they had any feedback about content.
Members of the Group agreed that the handbook was useful and that the Council should continue to provide it. Members of the Group asked whether it would be available online, and also how a candidate could get it if they did not attend the count to receive it at that point. The Service Manager Corporate Services confirmed that a physical copy would be handed out to Councillors at the count and whilst it was unusual for a candidate to not attend, a copy could be emailed or posted to them if required. The content of the handbook would also be replicated on the Members extranet. The Group suggested that it would be helpful to have a pdf version of the handbook also.
The Service Manager Corporate Services reflected that the 2019 training schedule had included twelve face-to-face training sessions over a seven week period and had been hard for officers and Councillors and had ultimately resulted in a drop off in attendance. Members of the Group echoed those sentiments and thought that it had involved a lot of time and travel commitment and questioned whether the new programme could include online and hybrid training and also whether information could be uploaded onto the Members Intranet.
The Service Manager Corporate Services referred to proposals for the 2023 induction programme as set out in the report, which included three sessions. The first session proposed was an evening drop-in session where Councillors could meet officers and other Councillors and complete essential paperwork and find out key information; Session One – Admin and Logistics. Session Two would be an all-day Saturday session covering fundamental information about the work of a council and what it was to be a Councillor; Session Two – The Fundamentals. Session Three would an exhibition style evening session providing information about the wider work of the Council, including partner organisations and big scheme projects; Session Three – The bigger Picture.
Councillor Jeffreys said that it was essential that returning Councillors attend these sessions to engage with and support the new Councillors. Members of the Group also suggested that new Councillors be reminded to speak to their employer about having flexibility to attend to Council business and asked whether training sessions could be recording so that Councillors who both were and weren’t able to attend could use them as a learning resource.
Members of the Group supported the three session schedule and the breakdown of information into three discreet events, including having a drop-in session where Councillors could meet with colleagues.
Members of the Group thought that informing candidates of the dates ahead of the election would be helpful so that they could hold those dates in their diaries. The Service Manager Corporate Services confirmed the expectation that newly elected Councillors would make themselves available to attend these sessions. If there was circumstance where attendance wasn’t possible then alternative provision would be made.
The Service Manager Corporate Services referred to the proposed training schedule and explained that information previously contained within the initial induction programme had now been moved into the medium term programme, which would commence after the induction training had concluded. She explained that key training, such as planning and licensing, had been front loaded for early completion and in readiness for the commencement of committee and Full Council meetings.
The Service Manager Corporate Services explained the much of the training would be run internally, supported by training offered by East Midlands Councils where appropriate.
Councillor Jeffreys thought that the inclusion of training on Motions was very important and the Service Manager Corporate Services confirmed that the Council had well developed training in place.
The Service Manager Corporate Services referred to proposals for the longer-term training programme which included some information being provided through written and how-to documentation or short videos where a Councillor demonstrated how to do something, rather than an in-person training session.
The Chairman opened discussion about Members of this Group being involved in training videos to share experience and knowledge, which could be created ahead of the elections. Members of the Group supported the use of written and videos training, including how to access and use the planning system.
Councillor Williams asked about Scrutiny training and the Service Manager Corporate Services explained that the Council had provided much training on scrutiny over recent years and it was included as part of the medium-term programme, which could be expanded on if and as required.
The Chairman said that there was a role for political groups and experienced Councillors to support and explain the workings of the Council to new Councillors. The Service Manager Corporate Services said that Councillors sharing information and speaking positively about the training programme would support learning.
It was RESOLVED that the Member Development Group:
a) Discussed the proposals that officers had put forward for the 2023 Induction Programme.
b) Put forward any ideas or suggestions to officers at the meeting to increase councillor engagement in the Induction Programme.