Last Friday’s Annual Meeting of Herefordshire Council (25 May 2018) approved various positive changes to the Constitution.
One very good set of changes will improve the process for public questions: the word limit per question has been doubled to 140, the six-questions-per-person-per-year limit has been changed to one-question-per-person-per-meeting, and responses to questions will now be provided in advance, making it easier to ask good supplementary questions.
Another positive change is the adoption of gender-neutral language throughout the constitution – it’s about time!
These and other changes were proposed by a cross-party working group which worked hard together in recent months to review the whole constitution. I’m grateful to them all for their efforts.
Two other very important changes were proposed last Friday as amendments by It’s Our County councillors (with Green support). One concerned the need to promptly publish full details of any code of conduct complaints against councillors that have been upheld after due process (including any appeal) i.e. including the name, nature of the breach, and any recommendation or sanction applied. This was passed unanimously, after some discussion. It’s important because, if there has been misconduct, voters need to know details about who and what. Under the earlier proposals, we’d only have received information about the number of complaints upheld per council.
The other amendment was about the need to hold Councillors to the same standards of transparency as officers. We think Councillors should declare what organisations they are members of; there shouldn’t be any secrecy. Greens supported IOC councillors in asking for a ‘recorded vote’ (which means each councillor’s vote is recorded individually) and the motion was passed with a good majority (although a number of Conservatives abstained or voted against).
Altogether these changes represent important steps forward. It’s been good to see effective cross-party working getting positive results like this!