Rules and Regulations
Rules & Regulations
The council will have a constitution setting out decision-making structures and procedures, terms of reference of internal committees, roles and responsibilities of individual positions of office, procedure rules for meetings, codes of conduct and financial regulations. Your local constitution is based on a nationally agreed model constitution.
Full council, the cabinet/executive, overview and scrutiny and regulatory committee meetings are governed by rules for procedure. These cover the timing of meetings, order of business and rules of debate. Make sure that you know the rules of debate, how and when to declare an interest and the terms of reference for any committee you sit on. Although it is the chairperson’s responsibility to interpret these rules you will need to make sure that you know what they are and act accordingly.
Agendas & Minutes
Legally, councils are obliged to publish a notice of any public meetings three clear working days before the meeting. This notice must include the date, time, venue and agenda. Officers will make sure you receive this for your committees and possibly for others, so that you can decide if you would like to attend as an observer if items of interest to your ward are being discussed.
Officers will take minutes at all formal council meetings. This serves as a record of the decisions taken, the reasons for the decisions being taken and any background papers received. These minutes are available to the public. All council meetings and committees are open to members of the public unless there are legal reasons to exclude them.
If a committee needs access to specific technical expertise or knowledge, councils can co-opt members of the public with these skills to committees. Some co-optees are statutory, such as the chair and members of standards committees, the chair and members of audit committees and some members of the education and crime and disorder scrutiny committees. These co-optees are entitled to vote at a meeting, other non-statutory co-optees can contribute fully but are not entitled to vote.
Schemes of Delegation
In the constitution, a scheme of delegation sets out which individuals, both councillors and officers, have individual decision-making capacity for which functions. Many decisions are made day to day by officers but within the policies, resources and procedures agreed by the council.
There are legal entitlements of access to information by councillors and the public. Access is restricted to confidential information (e.g. private information or commercially sensitive information). The main provisions for this are set out in the Access to Information Act 1985 and the Local Government Act 1972. The public has extensive rights to committee papers (agenda, minutes and background papers) and there are legal duties on councils to publish and store, and retrieve on request, such documents and information.
Access to Information
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) gives people rights of access to information held by the council. This is to make sure that the public understands how the council works, how it spends its money and how it makes decisions.
The Act obliges councils to state publicly, through a publications scheme, the information the public can access about the council (e.g. published strategies and policy documents).
It also obliges councils to comply with requests for information unless exemptions apply.
Information that you hold as part of your official business, such as letters, papers and emails may have to be made available, but information that you hold for your own purposes will not be covered by the FOIA.
For more information
Further information can be found on the ICO website: ico.org.uk
The Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA) applies to personal data, i.e. information about living, identifiable individuals.
If you hold and process personal data you must comply with the data protection principles, set out in the DPA. The principles include the following requirements in relation to personal data:
- It must only be collected for a specific purpose;
- It must be kept secure;
- It must be relevant and up to date; and
- It must not be excessive – only hold as much as you need for as long as you need it. This is known as Data Minimisation.
You should also be aware that under the DPA, individuals are entitled to see copies of personal data held about them – for example constituents may ask for copies of information you hold about them. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) can provide guidance on how to handle such requests.
The DPA requires most individuals and organisations (such as councils) who hold personal data to notify the ICO that they do so. Councillors who hold personal data must also check if they need to notify. While not all councillors need to notify the ICO, failure to do so when required is a criminal offence.
The need to notify depends on the role that members are undertaking when processing personal information. If acting as a member of the council or major political party, you will not be required to notify. However, when acting as a community representative or if you are an independent councillor you may need to do so. To make sure that you are covered, most councils suggest that all members notify the ICO that they are processing personal data.
Before sharing any information about a constituent or organisation with another party such as an MS or MP (such as an individual complaint) you should ensure that you have the explicit agreement of the constituent or organisation. The same obligation is true of others who may wish to disclose information to you as the local councillor.
The ICO provides guidance on data protection issues relating to elected members of a council and on what a council must consider when deciding to disclose personal information to its elected members. The guidance includes examples of good and bad practice which are useful in explaining how elected members should behave in relation to the requirements of the DPA. Your Council will have its own Data Protection Officer (DPO) who will be able to provide advice on handling data.
Further information can be found on the ICO website: ico.org.uk
All Welsh councils, health boards/trusts, police forces, fire and rescue services, many charities and voluntary sector organisations have signed up to the Wales Accord on the Sharing of Personal Information – WASPI. This Accord provides a framework for service-providing organisations directly concerned with the health, education, safety, and social well-being of people in Wales. It concerns those organisations that hold information about individuals and who need to share that information to deliver effective services. The Accord is part of the Welsh Government-led Sharing Personal Information Project which aims to make sure public services, as well as appropriate third and private sector service providers, share personal information about individuals legally, safely and with confidence. The framework facilitates this by establishing agreed requirements and mechanisms for the exchange of personal information between service providers.
Councils have a duty to spend money responsibly. Therefore, they have procurement processes for acquiring goods, works and services from suppliers. Procurement starts with identifying needs and finishes with the end of a contract or the life of the asset. Local government in Wales spends over £2 billion a year externally. With a service delivery reform agenda for improvement, increasingly integrated public services, and a significant growth in partnerships with private and voluntary sector suppliers, it is important to get procurement right. Through leadership, decision making and scrutiny roles, you will have a significant part to play in the achievement of strategic objectives through effective procurement of service delivery.