The Governance Service sits within the Assurance Group and ensures that all decision making is conducted in accordance with relevant legislation and the council’s constitution.
It is an internal service working with a wide range of customers including Councillors, council officers, CSG, Re, Barnet Homes, HB Public Law, partners and residents.
The Governance Service undertakes the following roles:
- Support the Council’s decision making and democratic process
- Lead on ensuring that decision making processes are in accordance with the Council’s Constitution and policies, budget allocation and statutory requirements
- Lead on the provision of guidance and support to promote good governance and timely decision making
- Supporting Full Council, committees and delegated decision making
- Provide constitutional advice across the Council and partners
- Managing the Delegated Powers Report process (DPR). A DPR is a record of a decision taken by an officer in accordance with the powers that have been delegated to them by Full Council. Delegations to officers are detailed in the Constitution (Article 10) and in Directors Schemes of Delegation (see here). It records the key information relating to each decision and provides an audit trail for expenditure or the use of statutory powers. There are two types of DPRs: a Summary DPR and Full Officer DPR. See the ‘What report should I be writing?’ document on the intranet for further detail.
- Taking part in sealing contracts on behalf of the Council
- Providing Member Support to all Councillors
- Undertaking the school admissions and exclusion appeals process.
The Head of Governance is Andrew Charlwood and the governance service is divided into the three area based teams (Chipping Barnet; Finchley & Golders Green; and Hendon). Each team comprises of a team leader and governance officers. Further details are available on the Governance intranet pages.
The Governance Service provide support to Councillors (or Members) to discharge the following roles:
- Member of the Council: Councillors act as a member of the council by being council and committee members and participating in the decision-making process of the council and their committees
- Representatives for residents of their ward: Each councillor is a representative of a ward in Barnet, representing the interests of their local community in that ward.
- Represent a political party: councillors need to balance the needs of their local area together with the needs of the political party they belong to.
Councillors are elected for a four-year term at local elections. The next local elections are on Thursday 3 May 2018. The Governance Service supports Members in their roles on committees by providing procedural advice. Members have regular contact with the public through meetings, telephone calls or surgeries.
Barnet has three parliamentary constituencies and each constituency has seven wards. There are 3 councillors per ward, 21 wards and a total of 63 councillors. The MPs for each of the three constituencies are:
- Theresa Villiers - Chipping Barnet (Conservative)
- Matthew Offord - Hendon (Conservative)
- Mike Freer - Finchley and Golders Green (Conservative)
- Last local election was May 2014
- 63 Councillors elected
- 32 Conservative, 30 Labour, 1 Liberal Democrat
- Next local election is May 2018
What to be mindful of:
- The administration have a majority of 1 – the political balance at Council and committees is very close
- Pre-Election Period (often referred to as Purdah) is the period immediately before an election (local, regional or national). The pre-election period is the time between the announcement of an election and the final election results. During this period, special rules apply designed to ensure the political impartially of all council publicity. The council must avoid actions which could have an impact on the way people vote. This means the Council may not put out publicity which promotes any candidate in the election – we therefore have to avoid taking photographs of Councillors at events, not have consultations running, and not put forward high profile issues to committee for decision. The Monitoring Officer and Head of Communications issue guidance on the pre-election period in the lead up to elections.
Unlike many local authorities (which have an executive/scrutiny governance structure) Barnet has a committee system governance structure. In practical terms, this means that many important decisions are taken in by politically proportionate committees rather than by a single-party executive. Political proportionality means that the number of councillors on each committee reflects the overall political balance of the council.