Policy and Resources Policy Review Committee


5 September 2002

Covering report to the Project Brief of the Best Value review of Democratic Services

Report of the Chief Executive

Contact: Sue Sylvester, Policy & Performance Officer, ext 7493

1. Purpose of the Service

1 1.1 The fundamental purpose of the County Council's Democratic Services is to support County Councillors when they make decisions as they strive to achieve the County Council's corporate aims and to encourage and facilitate community access and involvement in the work of the County Council.

2 The County Council's Democratic Services operate within the requirements of the Local Government Act 2000 and other requirements imposed by way of subsequent Regulations. The County Council's new Constitution has operated since the 1 September 2001.

2. Evaluation of whether the service meets Best Value

3 The extent to which the County Council's democratic services offer Best Value will be investigated during the course of this cross-cutting Review.

Outcomes sought

4 3.1 It is proposed that issues arising from the `Visioning' exercise held in June together with `areas for improvement' identified through an initial EFQM assessment undertaken in July, relating to the three sub areas of -


4. The review details

10 At this stage it is estimated that up to 80 person days will be required to undertake the review.

11 Other direct costs eg expenses for wider team members, will be minimal.

5. Recommendation

12 That the Best Value review of Democratic Services proceeds in accordance with the approach detailed in the attached Project Brief.

    Section 100D - Local Government Act 1972 - background papers


The following documents disclose facts or matters on which this report, or an important part of it, is based and has been relied upon to a material extent in the preparation of this report.


NB the list excludes:



Published works.



Documents which disclose exempt or confidential information as defined in the Act.



Democratic Services Best Value Review Working File

Retained by the Review Team Leader

13 N.B. The list excludes:

Hampshire County Council

Policy and Resources Policy Review Committee Item

5 September 2002

Project Brief for the Best Value Review of Democratic Services

Report of the Chief Executive

Contact: Mr David Hinxman, ext. 7339

1. Original Scope of the Review

1.1 This is a cross cutting review of the Council Council's Democratic Services analysing the support given by the Chief Executive and Chief Officers for the Council and its formal decision making and policy review structure, support for members in their constituency and wider roles, and how the County Council encourages electoral participation.

2. Best Value Review Core Team

2.1 The following core team has been set up:

Chief Executive's:

Other departments:

External Challengers:

Policy Review Committee to participate in the review.

2.2 The core team is a mixture of experienced elected members, practitioners and

3. Visioning

3.1 A visioning event was held in late June attended by all four elected members

allocated to the review, the two external challengers and all but two of the

County Council's officers . The key issues identified to improve Democratic

Services are centred around:


4. Approach to the Review

4.1 Each sub-group has been tasked with developing responses to the issues

identified. Each will apply the four Cs to its own field of activity as best suits

the work. Consultation will be undertaken with key stakeholders. These have

been identified by members and the core team as comprising largely the

public, interest groups, departments and elected members themselves.

4.2 Performance will be compared with operations in other similar local

5. Factors to be taken into Account

4.1 The review is proceeding against a background of change and innovation but

elements of Democratic Services are constrained by statutory requirements

particularly in relation to decision making procedures and the electoral
process. The review also needs to progress in the context of the new structures

pursuant to the Local Government Act 2000 so that comparisons are made

5.2 The review of the Council's electoral arrangements will lean heavily on the

expertise of the Hampshire district councils who, for many years, have acted as

the County Council's agents when County Council elections take place. The

advantages and disadvantages of this process will be investigated and again

compared with like authorities. The disappointing fall in electoral turnout at

the last General and County Council combined election will be a significant

issue for the review team to consider in a climate which, despite the publicity

given to Parliamentary elections saw a significant drop in votes compared with

1997. Should the review show that the existing arrangements are

inappropriate, any plans for innovative actions to encourage people to vote

could have implications for the Districts countywide.

5.3 The review will take into also proceed taking in to full account the County

Council's corporate policies. Equalities, e-government and sustainability are

each of particular significance in relation to the provision of Democratic


6. Resource Requirements

6.1 Given the way in which the core team has chosen to divide itself into specific

topic areas it is estimated that some 70-80 project days could be required to

carry out the review and identify outputs. It also needs to be borne in mind that the review is taking place against a background of fundamental change in relation to the operation of the Constitution, an unavoidable statutory duty in relation to Education Appeals which continue to increase, growing statutory order work and new demands upon members and staff as the government forges ahead with its "modernisation" agenda. A great strength of the Chief Executive's Department and in democratic services staff in both other departments, however, has long been the ability to work under pressure and be flexible. The review will accordingly, be managed in that context given the need to maintain core service levels.

7. Outputs for the review

7.1 Each sub-group will identify its key tasks, collate information, analyse it

and bring forward proposals. It is anticipated that the investigative and

challenging work should be completed by the end of the year. This will enable

options to be considered by the Policy Review Committee and all service

improvements and an improvement plan to be put in place by the end of March