A Guide to Committee Meetings
All meetings of Winchester City Council's committees are usually open to the press and public. This guidance is designed to help you understand the Council's meetings. Find out which meetings are coming up.
Although you are not allowed to take part in the discussions, time is set aside at the beginning of the meeting for the public to ask questions, make comments and raise matters of concern. Further guidance on Public Participation Procedures is available.
Who's who at the meeting?
Name plates are displayed at the meeting, but you may find the following information useful:
The Chairman generally sits at the centre of the table at one end of the room. It is the Chairman's job to control the meeting to ensure that proceedings are orderly.
The Vice-Chairman usually sits immediately to the Chairman's left and runs the meeting in the Chairman's absence. When the Chairman is present, an important part of the Vice-Chairman's job is to make sure that all Members who want to speak on a particular item have managed to catch the Chairman's eye.
Also sitting with the Chairman are the senior officers, on hand to give advice and answer questions. These staff will usually have prepared the reports that are being considered and are responsible for implementing the decisions made by the Committee.
The Democratic Services Officer
The Democratic Services Officer sits to the Chairman's right and gives advice on procedure and practice as well as recording the decisions made (i.e. taking the minutes). He/she will also assist members of the public on the procedure for asking questions/making comments etc at the beginning of the meeting.
The Members of the Committee are elected Councillors, appointed to the Committee or Panel by Council at the start of the municipal year. They sit in the rows of tables either side of the Chairman.
What's being discussed?
All the items to be discussed at the meeting are listed on the agenda and are available to read by clicking on the link under 'related pages' at the bottom of this page. However, there will usually be a limited number of paper copies available at the meeting but, from time to time, demand exceeds supply and you might need to share a copy.
Most agenda items consist of a brief report written by an officer of the Council, followed by one or more recommendations.
Some items include confidential information and therefore no details are included in the agenda.
Occasionally items of urgent business arise after the agenda has been produced and, if the Chairman agrees, these are also dealt with at the meeting.
Confidential business (referred to as 'exempt items' in the agenda) includes matters such as personal details of Council tenants, financial information about private sector firms, which could benefit their competitors, and certain legal and personnel matters etc.
Before such items are discussed, the meeting will pass a special resolution to exclude the press and public and you will have to leave the room. Such items are usually placed at the end of the agenda to avoid causing you too much inconvenience.
How is the meeting run?
Council Procedure Rules
The conduct of the meeting is governed by a set of procedures and rules of debate called Council Procedure Rules, which have been agreed by the Council, and by legal requirements. These are set out in the Council's constitution, and a link is available at the bottom of this page.
Declarations of Interest
At the start of the meeting Members have to say publicly if they have a personal interest in any of the items on the agenda. This is called 'declaring an interest' and, when the relevant item is reached, the Member must normally leave the room while it is being discussed, unless the interest is relatively minor.
To reach a decision on an item the meeting has to pass a resolution which means that the majority of Members who vote agree with what is proposed.
Sometimes items are decided without any debate. This does not mean they have not received careful consideration; it means that no-one disagrees with the recommendations. A formal vote will not be taken if there is general agreement on a suggested course of action.
If there is a majority vote against the recommendations made, the Members will usually indicate what action they would like the officer to take instead.
Sometimes a Member may wish to change part of an officer's recommendation and so he/she will propose an amendment. Amendments have to be seconded by another Member before they can be put to the vote.
Voting sometimes seems a bit confusing because amendments have to be voted on first. If an amendment is passed the amended motion then becomes the 'substantive' motion (or motion to be considered) and must be voted on again. If it is supported it becomes the resolution.
The Chairman usually explains what is happening so that Members and visitors know exactly what is being voted on.
Keeping Accurate Records - Minutes
The minutes of the meetings (a record of what took place) are written by the Democratic Services Officers and are available on the website, under the date of the relevant meeting.
As first business at a future meeting, these minutes have to be approved as a correct record, or have any factual inaccuracies corrected, before being signed by the Chairman. In this way a permanent, accurate record is kept of all the business dealt with by the Council and its committees.
The Committee Structure
The Council has a 'Cabinet with Leader' model of political management. Most executive decisions which need to be made by Members will be made by Cabinet (other than on planning applications and licensing matters), within overall Council policies and the budget policy and financial limits set by the Council.
The Council has also set up a number of overview and scrutiny committees, plus separate Planning and Licensing Committees to carry out its quasi-judicial functions.
A chart summarising the new structure can be viewed below:
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|Committee Structure Diagram||35KB||
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