Agenda item

Member Remuneration Panel Report -- Matters Arising


(1)       The General Counsel introduced the report which set out recommendations of the Member Remuneration Panel (MRP) which were not directly related to the Members’ Allowances Scheme.


(2)       The Committee discussed the question of whether there was anything in the way that KCC operated which militated against a more diverse membership. Mr Lehmann asked whether it was possible to means test Members’ Allowances so that a higher allowance could be offered to younger Members who were on a low income. The General Counsel replied that this suggestion would be added to the list of Members’ suggestions that would be presented to the MRP when it next considered the Members’ Allowances Scheme.


(3)       The General Counsel replied to a question from Dr Sullivan by saying that he would be considering how to inform potential candidates before the next election of the ways in which they could become involved in supporting their communities.  Most of the candidates were nominated by their political parties, so he would be writing to local parties to make them aware of some of the recommendations of the MRP.  Possible supporting activities would be considered by Personnel Committee and Standards Committee. The Selection and Member Services Committee also had a role in considering how to support Members through their terms of office and how to demonstrate that KCC was fulfilling its statutory duty to support equalities.


(4)       Mr Gough said that the MRP’s recommendation that KCC should appoint a Lead Member for Equality and Diversity had not been taken forward in the way that the Panel had suggested.  This was partly due to cost but mainly because the decision on who to nominate was a matter for political parties, over whom the County Council had no control.  There might, however, be an opportunity to appoint a less formal champion. He noted that membership of the County Council had become more diverse since he had first been elected in 2005, particularly in terms of the number of women and younger people.  He believed that the question was to what extent people were encouraged or discouraged from putting themselves forward to the pool from which nominations were made. 


(5)       Mr Hook said that all the political parties found it difficult to put forward as diverse a range of candidates as it would like.  It seemed that, even amongst party members who had joined a party out of broad political interest, there was a lack of knowledge and understanding of what the County Council actually did, what its budget was and how it differed from the work of Parliament or District Councils.


(6)       Mr Hook then said that there was a need to improve webcasting of its meetings.  This was because it was of insufficient quality for a TV network to use its images in its news programmes.  If this was improved, awareness of the County Council would improve as well, leading to a greater variety of people becoming motivated to seek election.  


(7)       Mr Hook continued that consideration could be given to enabling networking across age and gender groups within KCC regardless of political affiliation.  This would not even involve staff time as it could be done on an informal basis.


(8)       Dr Sullivan said that the County Council Members were predominantly male, white and older.  She suggested that in order for minorities to feel safely able to speak and be listened to, the advice of the MRP should be followed, with a Cabinet Member having specific responsibility for diversity initiatives and to be someone with authority that people could speak to in the event that they felt that behaviour towards them should be improved.


(9)       Mr Sweetland said that his portfolio included responsibility for diversity and that he took it seriously.  He would welcome a diversity champion from within the current cohort of KCC Members.  He welcomed Mr Hook’s suggestion on networking and added that all Members needed to be aware of the need for them to consider how they could promote diversity.


(10)      Mr Gough said that the Administration was discussing this issue in depth and that he would take forward the suggestion of a Champion drawn from the wider membership of the Council for inclusion in these discussions. 


(11)    The General Counsel said that there was a role for the service that he was responsible for to develop a strategy for Members’ wellbeing, particularly if they faced hostility in the social media.


(12)     Mr Hook opened the discussion on the “Transparency” section of the report by saying that he welcomed the suggestion on tabulating Member attendance either as a Committee Member or as a substitute.  He suggested that Members’ questions at County Council and debates they had taken part in could also be recorded in the same way.  If the webcasting were to be improved, it might also be possible to incorporate a link to the contribution made.


(13)     The General Counsel said that the current webcasting contract was due to come to an end in 2022.  It would be possible at this point to consider the inclusion of features which could record information in a particular way.  He would be willing to bring forward a more detailed report on this issue to a future meeting of the Committee.  He added that it could be misleading to simply set out a bland statistic which simply quantified the number of meetings attended. 


(14)      Mr Gough said that it would be useful for the General Counsel to provide the report he had suggested.  It was difficult to provide any statistic that gave an entirely accurate picture of the entire contribution made by any Member of the Council.  He nevertheless agreed with Mr Hook’s suggestion because it would lead to incremental improvement in the transparency of the County Council, which he believed was the best approach to adopt.


(15)     Mr Lehmann said that attendance at Parish Council, Joint Transportation Board and Outside Body meetings should also be recorded as they were an integral part of a Member’s work.


(16)     Dr Sullivan said in respect of the Dependents’ Carers’ Allowance section of the report that it would help to reduce the stigma that could be experienced by carers if this particular allowance could be recorded separately from other Members’ expenses, as happened with attendance at conferences and training.


(17)     The General Counsel said that he needed to check the Transparency Regulations to see whether the Dependents’ Carers’ Allowance had to be displayed against individuals or a pot.  Once he had done so, he would prepare a report containing suggestions for achieving the desired result.


(18)     RESOLVED to note:-


(a)          that Member attendance at meetings will be tabulated and published as soon as is practical; and


(b)          the comments made and requested actions in respect of:-



(i)      the additional information which could be published to give a more accurate picture of Member contribution;


(ii)     whether there is anything in how the Council operates which militates against a more diverse membership and


(iii)    how better to promote the Dependents’ Carers’ Allowance.


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