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Welsh council outlines training plan after recognition that at extraordinary meeting it would have acted unconstitutionally if monitoring officer advice had not been followed

Wrexham Council has issued a statement on the conduct of future meetings, amid recognition it ran the risk of acting unconstitutionally had the advice of its monitoring officer not been followed at an extraordinary meeting in November 2021.

The statement issued this week (17 January) said the Mayor and Group Leaders recognised the need to have “high-quality public debate in Council meetings that respects different viewpoints and individuals, and that upholds democratic principles”.

It added: “Following positive meetings, since the November Council meeting, between the Mayor, Group Leaders and key officers, it has been recognised that at that Council meeting in November there was a risk that if the legal advice provided by the monitoring officer, which was ultimately accepted, had not been followed then the Council would have been acting unconstitutionally.”

To address this for future meetings, the following positive actions have been agreed:

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  • Training for the current Mayor around chairing, the constitution and the role of the monitoring officer.
  • Training for incoming Mayors around chairing, the constitution and the role of the monitoring officer.
  • Training for all Councillors as part of their induction around the types of meeting debates, the constitution and the role of the monitoring officer.

The meeting on 9 November 2021 was to discuss a bid for city status. The minutes of the meeting state:

Members considered a Notice of Motion in the following terms proposed by Councillor Marc Jones and seconded by Councillor Carrie Harper who further requested a recorded vote:

“This Council does not support a bid for city status”.

The Leader addressed the concerns raised by the mover of the motion and moved an amendment as follows:

“That full Council invites the Executive Board to consider a bid for city status at the next scheduled meeting”.

The mover of the motion made a point of order and referred to rule 4.23 section f of the Councils Constitution, suggesting that the amendment negated the main motion. In response, the Monitoring Officer referred to the full constitution and in particular s4.23.6.1.1, confirming that the proposed wording of the amendment was allowed under the rules of the Council’s constitution.

The Mayor raised concerns at accepting the amendment stating he felt it negated the main motion and was therefore, in his opinion, undemocratic. The Monitoring Officer reiterated that the amendment to the motion was legal within the rules of the Councils constitution.

Following a short adjournment, the Mayor advised the meeting that following legal advice, whilst he still had strong reservations around its wording, he would accept the amendment to the motion.

The Deputy Leader seconded the amendment put forward by the Leader and a debate ensued.

In response to a number of point of orders raised during the meeting, the Monitoring Officer reminded the meeting a number of times of the rules of debate.

Following the debate it was resolved (36 for the amendment, 9 against and 1 abstention) that the full council invite the Executive Board “to consider a bid for city status at the next scheduled meeting. The Council will publicise through its website the benefits of a city status bid and include information on how the bid could positively influence the lives of people in Wrexham.”

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