Weekly message from Peter Sass, ADSO Vice Chair

Now that the Christmas decorations have been put back in the loft and ‘Dry January’ is over, all Councils will now be heavily involved in budget setting meetings, whichever form of governance your Council has. If you operate scrutiny, I’m sure backbench and opposition Members will be carefully reviewing the Executive’s budget proposals and preparing the text of amendments for budget Council meetings. Government announcements on grants seem to get later each year, yet the deadline for printing Council Tax bills is almost immovable, so the window for Budget Council meetings seems to get smaller every year. I have the joy of two Budget Council meetings on consecutive nights to look forward to in early March; in Wandsworth and Richmond. I can hardly contain my excitement…

On Monday 20th January, Leah Mickleborough from West Suffolk Council and I represented ADSO at the Code of Conduct review workshop run by Hoey Ainscough Associates on behalf of the LGA. Hoey Ainscough were appointed in November 2019 to support the LGA to produce a new model code of conduct, which will be consulted upon in the Spring before being launched at the LGA conference in July. It was a valuable opportunity to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the existing standards regime; offer views on real but anonymised breach cases; and discuss the appropriate balance in the new model code between rules and general principles. Of particular interest were the discussions around ‘capacity’, bullying and disrespect and the extent to which Members’ use of social media engaged the code. It was clear from all participants at the workshop that a more effective rules-based code with effective sanctions was desirable. If you wish to contribute to the review, you can do so by contacting Hoey Ainscough: codereview@hoeyainscough.co.uk

Now, even though the UK has left the EU, here is an opportunity for a little bit of European co-operation. Professor Klaartje Peters, Professor of Local and Regional Governance at the University of Maastricht is undertaking research into ‘scrutiny and oversight by local councils’ and wishes to add a European dimension to her study. Professor Peters is visiting Edinburgh for a conference during the first week of April and then would like to visit one or two Councils who operate overview and scrutiny committees before leaving the UK. Professor Peters has suggested Councils in the North of England, as her time is limited following the conference before she flies back to the Netherlands. If you would like to offer to host Professor Peters, please contact her direct: klaartje.peters@maastrichtuniversity.nl or via Hans Rijs (one of the directors at the Dutch equivalent of ADSO): hrijs@bodegraven-reeuwijk.nl

On Thursday, 23rd January, I attended the London Member Development Network. It’s always so good to see colleagues who work in these vital roles to support and help develop our elected Members. We received an excellent presentation from former BBC journalist and news presenter Karen Ainley from Mosaic Publicity on Social Media: how Members can make the most of using social media and how to avoid some of the pitfalls. Karen’s husband is a Councillor in Essex and I thought she had an interesting insight into the some of the complexities of being an elected representative and how to engage communities via social media.

Last but certainly not least, here is a link to the ADSO member survey 2020: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSebil_kj7iXlYn8VdCfmvLHnbhoPUM-rOxXIoVvyxcva9tMrw/viewform?vc=0&c=0&w=1

Please complete the survey so that the Board can ensure that it works successfully for and on behalf of its members in the right way, doing the things you want us to do.

Happy budget-setting!

Peter Sass, Vice Chair of ADSO

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