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Agenda item

Member Induction and Development Programme 2023/2024 (C4264)

Purpose: To give consideration to, and agree, the proposed Member Induction and Development Programme for 2023/24 following the District Council Election in May 2023. The Programme was considered and endorsed by the Member Development Group on 27 February 2023.


Council considered a report (agenda item 18) to agree the proposed Member Induction and Development Programme for 2023/24 following the District Council Election in May 2023.

MOTION: Proposed by Councillor Tom Marino and seconded by Councillor Clive Hooker;

That the Council:

Discuss and, if appropriate, agree the proposed Member Induction and Development Programme for 2023/24.

Authorise the Service Director – Strategy and Governance to regularly review and amend the Programme where necessary throughout the Municipal Year to ensure it remains relevant and fit for purpose.

Councillor Marino stated that the report asked Council to agree the Member Development Programme for the following Municipal Year, this included training sessions on a number of different matters some of which were mandatory such, as planning training for planning committee members. He implored members to attend as many sessions as possible, especially any new members. The program had been considered by the Member Development Group. The proposed dates and times would be added prior to the election with times to suit members who worked full time and in a hybrid format.

AMENDMENT: Proposed by Councillor Jeff Brooks and seconded by Councillor Jeremy Cottam.

That Council;

“Replace the word ‘mandatory’ with the words ‘strongly recommended’, except where there was a legislative requirement that Members must have been trained in order to sit on a particular body – Planning, Licensing and Appeals refer. Delete the words ‘Dress Code’.”

Councillor Brooks informed that he requested Council replace the word mandatory with strongly recommended except where there was a legislative requirement that members be trained to be on a particular body such as licensing. He agreed that there needed to be an induction programme especially for new members. He felt that training did not need to be crammed into a short period of time but spread out so that members were not overwhelmed. The Council could not mandate councillors to undertake any training unless there was a legislative requirement, so to use mandatory for a whole range of training was not appropriate and could not be enforced. He gave assurance that if re-elected his Group Leader and himself would encourage their members to attend training sessions but they would not be forced to do so.

Cllr Brooks also asked that the word dress code be deleted from the programme. He said members did not need training in how to dress by officers. Councillor Steve Masters said that he had taken part in the working group and recalled that the amendments that Councillor Brooks was proposing had been approved. He urged members to support the motion.

Councillor Dominic Boeck said that as far as the dress code element he had some sympathy with Councillor Brooks. When it came to the programme there were elements that he felt everyone should attend such as Corporate Parenting as it was vital that all councillors understood their role as Corporate Parents.

Councillor Steve Ardagh-Walter said that he had sympathy with the proposed amendment especially as he was a rebel on the tie wearing front. He agreed that members should be allowed to decide how to dress in an appropriate manner. With regards to mandatory training he agreed that there were some that might not need to be classed that way but there were some, such as information security and safeguarding, that if not trained in could lead to reputational damage for the council or worse.

Councillor Tony Linden recalled that many years ago members were expected to wear a tie and although that had relaxed Members should dress appropriately but not told how to. With regards to training he also agreed that there were certain areas that should remain as mandatory.

Councillor Lynne Doherty was not concerned with what councillors wore but she was when it came to mandatory training. She said that when you entered an organisation there was mandatory training for a reason and for the Council safeguarding and IT security, as already mentioned, were mandatory for a reason. As Leader of her Group it was her responsibility to ensure that councillors on a committee had first been appropriately trained.

Councillor Clive Hooker said that he agreed with Councillor Masters that they had discussed the word mandatory but it was not to remove it altogether as you had to have been trained to go onto certain meetings such as planning and certain appeals. With regards to the dress code it was not considered that this should be mandatory but a general discussion on what would be appropriate, for example when sitting on bodies such as planning, was held. It did not have to be mandatory but he felt that for a Council meeting Members should be reasonably presented.

Councillor Adrian Abbs said that he supported the proposed amendment and that no one was arguing that there should not be some mandatory training for certain meetings. There were some areas that were listed as mandatory that had no way of being enforced. Where the training was important this could have been highlighted and it would have been for the Groups to manage attendance.

Councillor Owen Jeffery stated that a divide had been created over something that members broadly agreed upon. Members were in agreement that training should be mandatory when it came to a legislative requirement.

Councillor Graham Bridgman believed that there was a legislative requirement to have licensing training in order to be on a licensing sub-committee, however there was no legislative requirement to be a member of a planning committee. It was however right that this authority insisted on planning training to reduce the risk of successful appeals. It was also appropriate for training to be mandatory on certain committees or on topics to protect the Council from prosecution and reputational harm. He also mentioned the importance of members being trained on safeguarding and their role as corporate parents. Although he agreed with the sentiment of the amendment he believed that more than just the legislative sessions should be mandatory.Councillor Cottam said that this amendment was not politically motivated, at the Member Development Group they had discussed what they felt was mandatory training and the amendment had been brought forward to aid clarity. He felt there was little value in saying something was mandatory when it could not be enforced. 

Councillor Marino disagreed with the amendment. Members might not be able to attend every session but setting the programme was a Council decision and as a Council they were entitled to put on training that they felt was mandatory as there were standards that they wished to maintain. All sessions would be recorded to allow members who could not attend to watch the sessions back. The sessions were also held at different times and in a hybrid format to allow greater flexibility. He said that he had checked the minutes of Council back in 2019 and when this item had been discussed then there had been no objection to the use of the word mandatory and many of the sessions were the same as those proposed tonight. With regards to dress code he said that there was only one mention of it in the report and it was part of a larger session about surviving your first three months as a councillor. There was no mention as to what the dress code was or if one had to be followed. There had been no issues raised over the past four years and he did not see why it had become an issue.

Councillor Brooks said that there had been a good debate on the amendment. He pointed out that there were 19 sessions that had been called mandatory when some could have been called essential. There was no desire not to attend sessions but if a member could not attend there were no sanctions in place so they should not be mandatory. He felt that ‘strongly recommended’ would be better for sessions that you could not mandate. With regards to the dress code he said that this had been mentioned in the section for meeting function and thus could be read as rules for a dress code at meetings. After the elections his members would do their best to attend sessions but they would not consider them mandatory.

The Amendment was put to the vote and duly LOST.

Councillor Linden noted that it was very important for councillors to attend these sessions. Even if you had been a councillor for a number of years you always needed a refresh and could learn new things. It was also important for new councillors to attend the training, although it was important not to overwhelm them and the training should be spread out as much as possible.

Councillor James Cole encouraged the three parties to let their potential candidates know about the development programme as there would be a lot going on that they could do with knowing in advance of accepting office.

Councillor Phil Barnett mentioned that a councillor might have many commitments, such as being a Parish Councillor, and thus their time might be limited. He said that where possible there should be more than one date available for a training topic.

Councillor Abbs said that when he became a councillor in 2019 he had been given plenty of warning about the training sessions, in fact it had been sold to him as a positive. They would be repeating this message to their candidates.

Councillor Hilary Cole advised that she had attended a number of training sessions over the years and had some sympathy with the amendment. She felt that these issues should have been resolved prior to this meeting. She did, however, believe that a lot of sessions should be mandatory as it was vital that councillors attended as many sessions as they could. Even as an established member the sessions were helpful.

Councillor Carolyne Culver was of the understanding that officers were not paid for supporting the evening training sessions and she asked that senior officers make sure that they were either paid or given time off in lieu.

Councillor Brooks said that as mentioned on his side councillors were given notice prior to the last election of training dates but it was also important to remember that in the first month they might wish to go home and sleep. Councillor Cole had said that members should go along to as many as they could but mandatory meant must do. He reiterated that they would encourage their members to attend as many sessions as they could. With regards to a dress code this was an area that was best left to the political groups to manage.

Councillor Hooker supported the report. He stated that was important to get as many members trained so that they could have balanced committees. He thanked officers and members of the working group for their contributions and producing this draft with no increase to the training budget. Consideration had been given to the timings of the meetings and recordings should be made available.

Councillor Marino thanked everyone for their contributions and felt that it had been a good debate.

The Motion was put to the meeting and duly RESOLVED.

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