Local authority committees
In a number of areas of local government activity, more indepth discussion and consideration of matters can take place at committee level, rather than at meetings of the full council. Following on from the Government's 1996 discussion paper 'Better Local Government', a new and more structured committee system was introduced for local authorities. This new system replaced some of the ad-hoc committees which had evolved over the years.
Creating a local authority committee
To create a committee, the council passes a resolution at a council meeting. The committee must consist of at least 3 members of the council. You cannot be a member of a local authority committee if you are not a member of the council unless you have knowledge, qualifications or experience relating to the functions of the committee.
The council can, by resolution, delegate some its functions to a committee if at least ½ of the members of the council vote in favour of the resolution. However, it cannot delegate the adoption of the annual local authority budget. The council also cannot delegate the power to create the Development Plan, decide on rates or borrow money.
The council must establish strategic policy committees (SPCs) to formulate, develop, monitor and review policy relating to the authority's functions. The SPCs must advise the local authority on policy.
Two or more local authorities can establish joint committees to perform the functions of the local authorities.
Each member of the local authority must serve on at least one SPC. Special guidelines regarding these committees have been issued by the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government and are set down in Part 7, Sections 48-54 of the Local Government Act 2001. This legislation sets out the arrangements which apply to the establishment of these committees.
About two-thirds of the membership of these committees is made up of elected members.The remaining third consists of representatives of sectoral interests. For example, representatives of community, environmental, business, trade union, farming interests.
The chairperson of each committee must be an elected member of the council. Chairs of each committee are appointed by the council for a minimum period of three years.