10.8 Elected member workshops
When to use workshops
- Workshops are informal meetings that are not used to make decisions and are not generally open to the public or media. They support the decision-making process by enabling elected members to seek further clarification on items prior to making a formal decision at some point in the future.
Workshops are also a mechanism for staff to seek informal guidance from elected members to improve future advice, including identifying information gaps and discussing options for policy development.
Using the right mechanism, as illustrated in the table below, to engage with elected members helps to ensure efficiency and best use of staff and elected member time.
|Seek a decision
|Explore an issue or get political guidance on identified priorities
|Seek political direction on other issues
|Provide information or project update
Decision-making meeting of the governing body or local board
Informal discussion, working party
Memos, reports, tours or other means
- As informal meetings, there is flexibility on how workshops are structured. This provides an opportunity for local boards to collaborate across borders through sub-regional cluster workshops, as well as for governing body members to be invited to local board workshops if relevant. It also enables local board chairs or members to be invited to governing body committee workshops.
- Workshops are scheduled regularly with dedicated times blocked out in meeting schedules. This enables several items to be discussed, but time is limited. In general, workshop time is reserved for priority issues – those on the forward work programme or significant emerging issues – and other items may be refused or postponed.
- Material should be provided for pre-circulation to enable quality discussion and input. This includes a clear purpose (what elected members are being asked for) and clarity if any of the material is confidential.
- During the workshop
- Conflicts of interest need to be declared, with the member removing themselves from the discussion for that item . This is the same process as for a formal decision-making meeting.
If technology such as video conferencing is available, it can be used to save travel time for staff or presenters.
Workshops are not decision-making meetings; therefore while they can be used to gather informal feedback or insights, they cannot be used to provide formal feedback on an issue. This means for example that while a local board could provide insights on an issue at a workshop, it cannot decide a formal position.
Follow-up from the workshop
- Democracy Services or Local Board Services staff will record items discussed, who presented, member attendance, time taken for the workshops and any conflicts declared.
- To support transparency, information from the workshops is attached to the agenda of the next formal decision-making meeting. For governing body workshops, this will be – where possible – the presentations; and for local board workshops, in most instances, this will be a summary of non-confidential items.
- Details and updates on actions should be provided to the decision-makers at subsequent discussions of the issue. In particular, the outcomes should be noted in related reports going to the formal decision-making meetings, including how the workshop helped to inform the advice given.