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Council's Standing Orders and Corporate Governance

The council is a statutory body, with rules about its legal status and constitution set out in legislation. There are wide areas which are left to councils to determine for themselves.

For example, there are legal rules about the make-up of committees, but councils are free to design their own structure of committees and sub-committees; and there are rules about delegating powers to council officers, but exactly what is delegated and what is left to committees is for each council to decide.

Standing Orders

The council has filled in these areas of discretion by making sets of rules which, taken together with legislation, form the council's constitutional documents and framework. The collective title for them is "Standing Orders", and there are six individual elements under that umbrella:

  • Standing Orders for the Regulation of Meetings - these contain the rules which apply to calling meetings of council, committees, sub-committees and PDSPs, how they are run and managed, and how decisions are made
  • Scheme of Administration - this has the detailed remits and powers of council, committees, sub-committees and PDSPs, and specific rules about membership and meetings. It is incorporated into the Standing Orders for the Regulation of Meetings
  • Scheme of Delegation to Officers - this records the responsibilities and decision making powers which the council has decided should be passed to council officers, rather than having to be carried out through committee meetings. The council does not have to delegate powers to officers, but it would be impracticable for the council's business to be run through committee meetings. Where powers are transferred for more than six months a written record must be kept and made available to the public
  • Standing Orders for Contracts - these rules apply to all council contracts, and form the basic internal rules which must be observed in relation to procurement and contracts
  • Corporate Procurement Procedures - these put the flesh on the bones of the Standing Orders for Contracts, and they set out how things should be done rather than what should be done
  • Financial Regulations - these are the rules through which the FMU looks after the council's money, prepares its annual accounts and operates internal controls through systems such as risk management and internal audit. They are relevant to service managers as well since they set out budgeting procedures and responsibilities

Other significant documents and protocols

Sitting at a level below Standing Orders is another suite of documents and protocols which are key to the administration of the council. They do not have the legal significance of Standing Orders, but are essential to the efficient delivery of the council's business.

They include:

  • the Protocol for Multi-Member Wards - Members;
  • the Protocol for Multi-Member Wards - Officers;
  • and the Report Template (and related report-writing guidance).

Also present are notes of procedures to assist officers in dealing with matters affecting councillors and committees.

They include:

  • Petitions and Requests for Council Support;
  • Consultation Responses;
  • Urgent Committee Business;
  • Guidance to Service Areas During Pre-election "Purdah" Periods;
  • and Urgent Committee Business

Corporate Governance

Governance means the arrangements put in place to ensure that the intended outcomes for stakeholders are defined and achieved. Good governance leads to good management, good performance, good stewardship of public money, good public engagement and, ultimately, good outcomes. To deliver good governance in the public sector, both governing bodies and individuals working for public sector entities must try to achieve their entity's objectives while acting in the public interest at all times. Acting in the public interest implies primary consideration of the benefits for society, which should result in positive outcomes for service users and other stakeholders.

Corporate governance is not directly about performance, or service standards, or service delivery, or policy-making. It is about the systems which make sure these things can be done, and that they can be done well and in an open, transparent and accountable way.

To make sure that the council adheres to the rules of good corporate governance, it maintains a Local Code of Corporate Governance. That sets out the principles and other standards by which good governance should be judged.

Annual reports about corporate governance are presented to Council Executive and then Governance & Risk Committee. The most recent report can be accessed on this page. It is made up of:-

  • A covering report giving an assurance to members on the adequacy of the council's governance arrangements

  • The annual governance statement required as part of the council's annual accounts. It must be approved by council or an appropriate committee and signed by the Chief Executive and the Leader of the Council

  • Statements of Compliance, signed and certified by Corporate Management Team members, about the council's compliance with statutory responsibilities and its internal policies and procedures

  • The Local Code with information filled in about the evidence the council can produce to show compliance. It is assessed against the approach which has been put in place, the extent to which it is used and the arrangements in place for reviewing those things

More information about the council's approach to corporate governance can be found on the council's website, here corporate governance 

Conclusion

Along with the pdf icon Employee Code of Conduct [280kb] council officers should be familiar with these documents in general terms, and should be able to find them and be aware when they need to be checked and followed. Disregarding them invites trouble, complaints and the possibility of disciplinary action.