The City Council's Constitution
The City Council's Constitution sets out how the Council operates, how decisions are made and the procedures which are followed to ensure that these are efficient, transparent and accountable to local people. Many of these processes are required by the law, while others are a matter for the Council to choose.
The Constitution is divided into 15 articles which set out the basic rules governing the Council's business. More detailed procedures and codes of practice are provided in separate rules and protocols at the end of the document.
What's in the Constitution?
the Constitution commits the Council to ensure that quality and value in partnership (Worcester City Council's vision) is at the heart of everything we do. It also explains the rights of citizens and how the key parts of the Council operate. These are:-
- Members of the Council.
- Citizens and the Council.
- The Council meeting.
- Chairing the Council.
- Overview and Scrutiny Committees.
- The Cabinet.
- Regulatory and other committees.
- The Standards Committee.
- Joint arrangements.
- Decision making.
- Finance, contracts and legal matters.
- Review and revision of the Constitution.
- Suspension, interpretation and publication of the Constitution.
How the Council operates
The Council is composed of 35 councillors elected for a four year term. Councillors are democratically accountable to residents of their ward. The overriding duty of councillors is to the whole community, but they have a special duty to their constituents, including those who did not vote for them.
Councillors have to agree to follow a code of conduct to ensure high standards in the way they undertake their duties. The Standards Committee trains and advises them on the code of conduct
All Councillors meet together as the Council. Meetings of the Council are normally open to the public. Here Councillors decide the Council's overall policies and set the budget each year. The Council will elect the Leader of the Council and the Cabinet each year. The Council will appoint a Scrutiny Committee to scrutinise decisions taken by the Cabinet, individual Cabinet members (to be known as portfolio holders) and key decisions of officers.
Overview and Scrutiny
There are 3 Overview and Scrutiny Committees who support the work of the Cabinet and the Council as a whole. These are:
- Scrutiny Committee.
- Performance Management and Budget Scrutiny Committee.
- Audit Committee.
These Committees produce reports and recommendations which advise the Cabinet and the Council as whole on its policies, budget and service delivery. The Overview and Scrutiny Committee also monitor the decisions of the Cabinet.
The Council's Staff
The Council has employees working for it to give advice, implement decisions and manage the day-to-day delivery of its services. Some employees have a specific duty to ensure that the Council acts within the law and uses its resources wisely. A protocol governs the relationships between Officers and Members of the Council.
How decisions are made
The Cabinet is the part of the Council which is responsible for most day-to-day decisions. The Cabinet is made up of the Leader and up to 9 Councillors appointed by the Leader. When major decisions are to be discussed or made, these are published in advance, in so far as they can be anticipated. If these major decisions are to be discussed with Council Officers at a meeting of the Cabinet, this will generally be open for the public to attend except where personal or confidential matters are being discussed. The Cabinet has to make decisions which are in line with the Council's overall policies and budget. If it wishes to make a decision which is outside the budget or policy framework, this must be referred to the Council as a whole to decide.
Citizens have a number of rights in their dealings with the Council. Some of these are legal rights, whilst others depend on the Council's own processes. The local Citizens' Advice Bureau can advise on individuals' legal rights.
Citizens have the right to:
- Vote at local elections if they are registered;
- Contact their local Councillor about any matters of concern to them;
- Obtain a copy of the Constitution;
- Attend meetings of the Council, the Cabinet and Committees except where, for example, personal or confidential matters are being discussed;
- Petition to request a referendum on a mayoral form of executive;
- Participate in the Council, Cabinet and Committee meetings through the time given for public representations and Overview and Scrutiny Committees;
- Find out, from the Cabinet forward plan, what major decisions are to be discussed by the Cabinet or decided by the Cabinet or Officers, and when;
- Attend meetings of the Cabinet except where, for example, personal or confidential matters are being discussed;
- See reports and background papers, and any record of decisions made by the Council and Cabinet;
- Complain to the Council about any matter for which it has a statutory responsibility. The matter will be investigated and responded to in accordance with the Council's Complaints Procedure;
- Complain to the Local Government Ombudsman if they think the Council has not followed its procedures properly. However, they should only do this after using the Council's own complaints process;
- Complain to the Monitoring Officer if they have evidence which they think shows that a Councillor has not followed the Council's Members' Code of Conduct; and
- Inspect the Council's accounts and make their views known to the external auditor.
The rights of citizens to inspect agendas, reports and attend meetings are set out in Part 4 in the "Access to Information Procedure Rules."