Councillors have agreed a major document which outlines how a new council will operate.
At its meeting in Carlisle this week (26 January 2023) the Shadow Authority for Cumberland Council achieved another major milestone in the development of Cumberland Council, with the agreement of a draft Constitution.
On 1 April 2023, Cumberland Council will begin providing all council services to those residents living in the current Allerdale, Carlisle and Copeland areas. This includes services currently provided by the borough and city councils, as well as Cumbria County Council.
The Shadow Authority has been working hard since being elected in May to prepare for this change and put in place what is required for the new council from vesting day.
Agreement on the Constitution is a major milestone in this process, as the document sets out how the new council will be governed and ensures decisions are taken in a fair, transparent and effective way.
It has been brought together by the cross-party constitutional working group of councillors working with officers and specialist lawyers.
The key document includes procedure rules, as well as protocols on member and officer code of conduct.
The Constitution also lays out the governance arrangements for key committees, such as the Council and Executive as well as for licensing, planning, councillor standards, overview and scrutiny, the Health and Wellbeing Board, and the Corporate Parenting Board.
As outlined in the Constitution, the planning committee will cover the whole of the Cumberland district and will deal with strategic development management as well as local matters which cannot be dealt with by officers under delegated powers.
The council’s Health and Wellbeing Board will be established to build strong and effective partnerships and improve the commissioning and delivery of services across the NHS and local government, social care and public health, leading in turn to improved health and wellbeing for local people. A range of NHS and voluntary and community partners are invited to sit on the board, which will be chaired by the Leader of the Council.
Improvements to the health and wellbeing of residents is central to the ambitions of the new council, as outlined in its Council Plan agreed last year.
The Corporate Parenting Board will promote the best interests and welfare of looked after children, children and young persons, and care leavers.
The Council Plan also included a commitment to work closely with local communities and engage with them to understand the issues they face, and find solutions. Work has been ongoing since then to understand how this can best be put into practice.
The Constitution outlines how a number of Community Panels will be established which will be responsible for decision-making on issues in the area they cover, as delegated to them by the Executive or Council. It is envisaged that each Community Panel will prepare a Community Plan written alongside community groups, residents and other stakeholders, setting out and delivering on the priorities for each area.
Whilst further details on how the Community Panels will operate has yet to be finalised, it has been agreed that they will comprise those Councillors who have been elected in each particular area.
Councillor Lisa Brown, Deputy Leader for the Shadow Authority for Cumberland Council, said: "It's an honour to present this Constitution to Council - an historic moment in the creation of the new authority.
“The building blocks we have put in place today will be something that we can confidently say drives forward the identity and culture of the council for many years to come.
“The creation of our Community Panels confirms the commitment we made in our Council Plan to work side by side with our communities, to write plans based on what they care about in their local areas, and use the power of local government alongside a range of partners to see those plans achieved. We are taking a fresh approach to engagement and co-production of services with residents, and this Constitution enables us to do that."
The Constitution also details how there will be also five Overview and Scrutiny Committees covering business and resources, health, people, place and Local Enterprise Partnership topics. These committees will act as a “critical friend” to the Executive by holding it to account, carry out reviews of decisions and council functions, as well as help formulate policies where appropriate.
At the meeting in Carlisle, councillors also agreed that the final changes to the draft Constitution can be made by the Monitoring Officer, and that the Constitution Working Group will continue to help with this process.
The new Constitution takes effect from 1 April 2023. Up until this point, the Shadow Authority will follow its Constitution agreed last May.