Civic and Ceremonial

Constitution

Image of the Constitution front page

The powers, functions and responsibilities of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

Introduction

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has agreed a constitution which sets out how the Council operates, how decisions are made and the procedures which are followed to ensure that these are efficient, transparent and accountable to local people. Some of these processes are required by the law, while others are a matter for the Council to choose.

The constitution is divided into 13 articles which set out the basic rules governing the Council’s business. More detailed procedures and codes of practice are provided in separate rules and protocols at Parts 2 to 6 of the Constitution.

What’s in the Constitution?

Article 1 of the Constitution sets out the purpose of the Constitution. Articles 2 – 13 explain how the key parts of the Council operate, and the rights of citizens.

These Articles are:

Article 1

The Constitution
The powers of the Council and the purpose of the Constitution

Article 2

Members of the Council
The composition of the Council, the roles and functions of all councillors, conduct and the scheme of allowances

Article 3

Citizens and the Council
The rights and responsibilities of citizens

Article 4

The Council
The policy and budget framework within which the Council operates, the functions for the Council and responsibility for functions.

Article 5

Chairing the Council
The role of the Mayor

Article 6

Decision–making structures
Details of the decision-making structure adopted by the Council

Article 7

Committees
The arrangements adopted by council for the discharge of functions by committees.

Article 8

Joint Arrangements
The operation of any joint committees

Article 9

Officers
The Council’s management structure, the functions of chief officers, conduct and employment

Article 10

Procedures for decision-making
Responsibility for decision-making, principles of decision-making, the role of Council and committees

Article 11

Finance, Contracts and Legal Matters
The Council’s arrangements for the conduct of financial matters, the making of contracts and the handling of legal matters

Article 12

Review and Review of the Constitution
The arrangements for the review and revision of the Constitution

Article 13

Suspension, Interpretation and Publication of the Constitution
Matters relating to the suspension of the Constitution, its interpretation and publication

 
 
How the Council operates
 
The Council is composed of 40 councillors elected every four years.
 
Councillors have to agree to follow a Code of Conduct to ensure high standards in the way they undertake their duties. The Code of Conduct for Members is set out at Part 4, Annex J of the Constitution.
 
All 40 councillors meet together as the Council at least once a month. Meetings of the Council are normally open to the public.
 
How decisions are made
 
The Council’s Staff
 
The Council has people working for it (called ‘officers’) to give advice, implement decisions and manage the day-to-day delivery of its services. Some officers have a specific duty to ensure that the Council acts within the law and uses its resources wisely.
 
The Employee and Councillor Working Relationship Protocol which is set out at Part 4 Annex L of the Constitution governs the relationships between officers and members of the council.
 
Citizens’ Rights
 
Citizens have a number of rights in their dealings with the Council. These are set out in more detail in Article 3. Some of these are legal rights, whilst others depend on the Council’s own processes. The local
 
Citizens’ Advice Bureau can advise on individual’s legal rights.
 
Citizens have the right to:
  • Contact their local councillor about any matters of concern to them;
  • Obtain a copy of the Constitution;
  • Attend meetings of the Council and its committees and public meetings except where, for example, personal or confidential matters are being discussed;
  • Inspect agendas and reports except those which contain, for example, personal and confidential matters;
  • See reports and background papers, and any record of decisions made by the
  • Council and it’s Committees;
  • Exercise their rights under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the
  • Environmental Information Regulations 2004 to obtain information held by the
  • Council;
  • Complain to the Council under the Council’s own complaints process;
  • Complain to the Commissioner of Complaints if they think the Council has not followed its procedures properly. However, they should only do this after using the
  • Council’s own complaints process;
  • Complain to the Commissioner of Complaints if they believe a Councillor has breached the Councillors’ Code of Conduct;
  • Inspect the Council’s accounts and make their views known to the Local Government Auditor.
The Council welcomes participation by all its citizens in its work.

 

ARTICLE 1 – THE CONSTITUTION

1.1 Powers of the Council
 
The Council will exercise all its powers and duties in accordance with the law and this Constitution.
 
1.2 The Constitution
 
This Constitution, and all its appendices, is the Constitution of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.
 
1.3 Purpose of the Constitution
 
The purpose of the Constitution is to:
a) enable the Council to provide clear leadership to the community in
partnership with citizens, businesses and other organisations;
b) support the active involvement of citizens in the process of local authority decision making;
c) help councillors represent their constituents more effectively;
d) enable decisions to be taken efficiently and effectively;
e) create a powerful and effective means of holding decision-makers to
public account;
f) ensure that no one will review or scrutinise a decision in which they were directly involved;
g) ensure that those responsible for decision making are clearly identifiable to local people and that they explain the reasons for decisions; and
h) provide a means of improving the delivery of services to the community.
 
1.4 Interpretation and Review of the Constitution
 
Where the Constitution permits the Council to choose between different courses of action, the Council will always choose that option which it thinks is closest to the statements of purpose in paragraph 1.3.
 
The Council will monitor and evaluate the operation of the Constitution.

 

ARTICLE 2 – MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL

2.1 Composition and eligibility
 
The Council comprises 40 elected members, otherwise called councillors. The councillors are elected by the voters of each district electoral ward in accordance with a scheme drawn up by Electoral Office for Northern Ireland.
 
Only registered voters of the area or those living or working in the area, are eligible to hold the office of councillor.
 
2.2 Election and terms of councillors
 
The regular election of councillors will be held on the first Thursday in May every four years. The next local election is scheduled to be held in 2023. The term of office of councillors will start on the fourth day after being elected and will finish on the fourth day after the date of the next regular election.
 
2.3 Roles and functions of all councillors
 
All councillors will:
a) Collectively be the ultimate policy-makers and carry out a number of strategic and corporate management functions;
b) Bring views of their communities into the Council's decision-making process;
c) Effectively represent the interests of their ward and of individual constituents;
d) Deal with individual casework and act as an advocate for constituents in resolving particular concerns or grievances;
e) Respond to constituents' enquiries and representations, fairly and impartially;
f) Participate in the governance and management of the Council;
g) Be available to represent the Council on other bodies; and
h) Maintain the highest standards of conduct and ethics.
 
Rights and duties
a) Councillors will have such rights of access to such documents, information, land and buildings of the Council as are necessary for the proper discharge of their functions and in accordance with the law.
b) Councillors will not make public information which is confidential or exempt without the consent of the Council or divulge information given in confidence to anyone other than a councillor or officer entitled to know it.
c) Subject to the Code of Conduct for Members, the common law rule against bias and the Council Procedure Rules, councillors have a right to speak and vote on any item before the Council and councillors who are members of a committee have a right to speak and vote on any item before that committee.
i. For these purposes, "confidential" and "exempt" information are defined in the Access to Information Rules in Part 4 of this Constitution.
 
2.4 Conduct
 
Councillors will at all times observe the Code of Conduct for Members set out in Part 4, Annex I of this Constitution.
 
2.5 Allowances
 
Councillors will be entitled to receive allowances in accordance with the Members Allowance Scheme, outlined in Part 5 of this Constitution.

 

ARTICLE 3 – CITIZENS AND THE COUNCIL

3.1 Citizens' rights

Residents and others who avail of the Council’s services have the following rights in relation to the operation of the Council. Their rights to information and to attend meetings of the Council or its committees are explained in more details in the Access to Information Rules in Part 4 of this Constitution.

3.2 Information

Citizens have the right to:
a) Attend meetings of the Council and its committees except where confidential or exempt information is likely to be disclosed, and the meeting is therefore held in private;
b) See reports and background papers (except where confidential or exempt), and any records of decisions made by the Council;
c) Inspect the Council's accounts and make their views known to the Local Government Auditor; and
d) Exercise their rights under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 to obtain information held by the Council.
.
3.3 Complaints

Citizens have the right to complain to:
a) The Council itself under its complaints, comments and compliments scheme;
b) The Northern Ireland Commissioner of Complaints after using the Council's own complaints, comments and compliments scheme;
c) The Northern Ireland Commissioner of Complaints in respect of an allegation that a councillor (or former councillor) has failed, or may have failed, to comply with the Northern Ireland Local Government Code of Conduct for Councillors.

3.4 Citizens' responsibilities

Citizens must not be violent, abusing or threatening to councillors or officers and must not wilfully harm things owned by the Council, councillors or officers.

ARTICLE 4 – THE COUNCIL

4.1 Meanings
 
Policy Framework
Those plans and strategies prescribed in legislation to be adopted by the Council; and other plans and strategies, which Council may decide to adopt as a matter of choice.
 
The diagram below outlines how the policy framework links together:
 
Community Plan - 15-year strategic plan
Corporate Plan - 4-year strategic plan
Performance Improvement Plan - Annual improvement plan
Annual Business Plan
Employee Personal Development Plan - 
Annual plan linked to work objectives & learning & development needs

Budget

The budget includes the allocation of financial resources to different services and projects, proposed contingency funds, the council rate base, setting the district rate and decisions relating to the control of the Council’s borrowing requirement, the control of its capital expenditure and the setting of virement limits.

4.2 Functions of the Council

The roles and responsibilities of councils, established in the Local Government Act 2014 and in other legislation, fall into four types:

Direct – councils are responsible for the provision and management of services

Development – councils have a role in facilitating economic and community development initiatives

Representative – council nominees sit on statutory bodies
 
Consultative – councils reflect community views and concerns, and provide a challenge function, in a range of issues including education, health and housing.
 
Council is responsible for a range of services falling broadly within Waste Management; Open Spaces; Culture, Arts and Leisure; Regulatory Services; Economic Growth and Development; and Planning.
 
4.3 Council meetings
 
There are three types of Council meeting:
a) The annual meeting
b) Ordinary meetings
c) Extraordinary meetings
 
And they will be conducted in accordance with the Council Standing Orders in Part 3 of the Constitution.
 
4.4 Responsibility for functions
 
The Council will maintain Part 2 of this Constitution setting out the responsibilities of the Council’s functions.

 

ARTICLE 5 – CHAIRING THE COUNCIL

5.1 The Mayor and in his/her absence, the Deputy Mayor will have the following roles and functions:

a) To uphold and promote the purposes of the Constitution;
b) To preside over meetings of the Council so that its business can be carried out efficiently and with regard to the rights of councillors and the interests of the community;
c) To endeavour to ensure that the Council meeting is a forum for the debate of matters of concern to the local community;
d) To promote public involvement in the Council's activities; and
e) To attend such civic and ceremonial functions as the Council and he/she determines appropriate.

5.2 The Mayor and Deputy Mayor will be elected annually at the Annual Meeting of the Council, along with Chair, Vice Chair of Committees and Committee Members.

ARTICLE 6 – DECISION MAKING STRUCTURES

6.1 The Council has determined to operate a committee system as permitted by Section 19 Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 2014

6.2 Proceedings of the committees shall take place in accordance with the Council’s Standing Orders set out in Part 3 of this Constitution.

ARTICLE 7 – COMMITTEES

7.1 The Council has appointed committees to enable it to discharge its functions.
 
7.2 These are:
  • Policy and Resources Committee
  • Borough Growth Committee
  • Direct Services Committee
  • Planning Committee
  • Audit and Scrutiny Committee
7.3 The functions for which each committee is responsible for is detailed in the Scheme of Delegation, Annex D of this Constitution.

 

ARTICLE 8 – JOINT ARRANGEMENTS

8.1 The Council may establish joint arrangements with one or more district councils to exercise functions which are not executive functions in any of the participating authorities, or to advise the Council.
 
8.2 Such arrangements may involve the appointment of a joint committee with these other local authorities.
 
8.3 Details of any Joint Arrangements will be found in Annex C of this Constitution.

 

ARTICLE 9 – OFFICERS

9.1 The Council may engage such staff (referred to as officers), as it considers necessary to carry out its functions.
 
9.2 Management Structure
The management structure of the Council is set out in Part 6 of this Constitution.
 
9.3 Functions of the clerk to the Council
The Clerk to the Council is responsible for the discharge of functions by the Council. The Clerk will report to full Council on the manner in which the discharge of the Council’s functions is coordinated and resourced.
 
The Clerk has authority over all other officers so far as is necessary for the efficient management and for carrying out the Council’s functions.
 
9.4 Functions of the chief financial officer
The Chief Financial Officer ensures the lawfulness and financial prudence of decision-making. The Chief Finance Officer will report to the full Council and the council’s external auditor if he or she considers that any proposal, decision or course of action will involve incurring unlawful expenditure, or is unlawful and is likely to cause a loss or deficiency or if the council is about to enter an item of account unlawfully.
 
In accordance with the Local Government Finance Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 to advise on robustness of estimates and level of resources.
 
The Chief Finance Officer will have responsibility for the administration of the financial affairs of the council.
 
The Chief Finance Officer will contribute to the corporate management of the council, in particular through the provision of professional financial advice.
 
The Chief Finance Officer will provide advice on the scope of powers and authority to take decisions, maladministration, financial impropriety, probity and budget and policy framework issues to all councillors and will support and advise councillors and officers in their respective roles.
 
The Chief Finance Officer will provide financial information to the media, members of the public and the community.
 
The Chief Executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council fulfils both the role of Clerk and Chief Financial Officer.
 
9.5 Duty to provide sufficient resources to the chief financial officer
The Council will provide the chief financial officer with such officers, accommodation and other resources as are, in its opinion sufficient to allow their duties to be performed.
 
9.6 Conduct
Officers will comply with the Officers’ Code of Conduct and the Local Government Employee and Councillor Working Relationship Protocol set out in Part 4, Annex K of this Constitution.

 

ARTICLE 10 – DECISION MAKING

10.1 Responsibility for decision making
The Council will issue and keep up to date a record of what part of the Council or individual officer has responsibility for particular types of decisions or decisions relating to particular areas or functions.
 
10.2 Principles of decision making
Decisions of the Council should be made in accordance with the following principles:
a) Proportionality (meaning the action must be proportionate to the results to be achieved);
b) Due consultation (including the taking of relevant professional advice);
c) Respect for human rights, equality and fairness;
d) Presumption in favour of openness;
e) Clarity of aims and desired outcomes;
f) Due consideration to be given to alternative options;
g) Reasons for the decisions to be given provided there is no breach of confidentiality.
 
10.3 Decisions to be taken by a qualified majority
Decisions of Council which must be taken by a qualified majority, i.e. by 80% of the votes of members present and voting, are set out in the Council Standing Orders (Standing Order 8) in Part 3 of the Constitution.
 
10.4 Decision-making by the Council
The Council meeting will follow the Council Standing Orders set out in Part 3 of this Constitution when considering any matter.
 
10.5 Decision-making by other committees established by the Council
Council committees will follow those parts of the Council Standing Orders set out in Part 3 of the Constitution as apply to them.
 
10.6 Reconsideration of decisions
Decisions of the Council or a committee of the council will be subject to reconsideration if 15 per cent. of the members of the Council present to the clerk of the Council a requisition on either or both of the grounds specified in section 41(1) of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 2014. These are:
i. that the decision was not arrived at after a proper consideration of the relevant facts and issues;
ii. that the decision would disproportionately affect adversely any section of the inhabitants of the district.
 
The procedures to be followed in relation to a requisition for the reconsideration of a decision are set out in the Council Standing Orders [Standing Order 9] in Part 3 of this Constitution.
 

ARTICLE 11 – FINANCE, CONTRACTS AND LEGAL MATTERS

11.1 Financial management
The management of the Council’s financial affairs will be conducted in accordance with the Financial Procedures Rules set out in Part 3 of this Constitution.
 
11.2 Contracts
Every contract made by the Council will comply with the Contracts Procedure Rules set out in Part 3 of this Constitution.
 
11.3 Legal proceedings by and against the Council
The Chief Executive is authorised to institute, defend or participate in any legal proceedings and take all necessary steps in any case where such action is necessary to give effect to decisions of the Council or in any case where legal opinion considers that such action is necessary to protect the Council’s interests.
 
11.4 Authentication of documents
Where any document will be a necessary step in legal proceedings on behalf of the Council it shall be signed by the Clerk and Chief Executive unless any enactment otherwise requires or authorises, or the Council gives the necessary authority to some other person for the purpose of such proceedings.
 
11.5 Common Seal of the Council
The Common Seal of the Council shall be kept secure in the custody of the Clerk and Chief Executive.
 
The Common Seal of the Council shall not be affixed to any documents unless the sealing has been authorised by a resolution of Council or of a Committee of Council having lawful powers or to which Council has delegated its powers in this behalf, authorising the acceptance of any tender, purchase, sale, letting or taking of any property the issue of any stock, the presentation of any petition, memorial, or address, the making of any rate or contract, or the doing of any other thing, shall be a sufficient authority for the sealing of any document necessary to give effect to the Resolution.
 
The seal shall be attested by the following persons at the sealing, namely, the Mayor or Chairman of the Council or other Member of the Council and the Clerk and Chief Executive or other senior Official authorised thereto by him if he is absent from his office.
 
An entry of the sealing of every deed and other document to which the Corporate Seal shall have been affixed shall be made in the Minutes of the Meeting of the Council at which the affixing of the Seal took place.
 

ARTICLE 12 - REVIEW AND REVISION OF THE CONSTITUTION

12.1 Duty to keep the Constitution up to date
The Chief Executive will monitor and review the operation of the Constitution to ensure that the aims and principles of the Constitution are given full effect.
 
Council will be provided with an annual report on the effectiveness of the Constitution and decision making structure.
 
12.2 Changes to the Constitution
All proposed changes to the Constitution will be debated and agreed by a majority of the Council.
 

ARTICLE 13 – SUSPENSION, INTERPRETATION AND PUBLICATION OF THE CONSTITUTION

13.1 Suspension of the Constitution
The Articles of this Constitution may not be suspended. The Procedure Rules specified below may be suspended by the full Council to the extent permitted within those Procedure Rules and the law.
 
13.2 Procedure to suspend
A motion to suspend any Procedure Rules will not be moved without notice unless at least one-half of the total number of councillors is present. The extent and duration of suspension will be proportionate to the result to be achieved, taking account of the statements of purpose of the Constitution set out in Article 1.
 
13.3 Procedure Rules capable of suspension
The following Procedure Rules may be suspended in accordance with Article 13.1.
 
13.4 Interpretation
The ruling of the Mayor in relation to the interpretation or application of this Constitution, or as to any proceedings of the Council, shall not be challenged at any meeting of the Council. Such interpretation will have regard to the purpose of this Constitution contained in Article 1.
 
13.5 Publication
A printed copy of this Constitution will be given to each member of the Council upon delivery to the clerk to the Council of that individual’s declaration of acceptance of office on the member first being elected to the Council.
 

Part 2 – Responsibility for Functions

Annex A – Principles of Delegation
 
Annex B – Responsibilities for Council Functions
As set out in Annex D.
 
Annex C – Joint Arrangements
Details of any joint committees established by Council
 
Annex D – Scheme of Delegation
Details of the scheme for delegating decisions to committees and officers.
 

Part 3 – Rules of Procedure

Annex E - Access to Information Procedure Rules
The rules relating to access to council information for members of the Council and members of the public as provided for in relevant legislation.
 
Annex F - Budget and Policy Framework Procedure Rules
Details of how the budget and policy framework is developed and operated.
 
Annex G - Contracts Procedure Rules
 
Annex H - Council Standing Orders
The rules of debate and procedure for the conduct of meetings of full Council, indicating also where these rules apply to committee and sub-committee meetings.
 
Annex I - Financial Procedure Rules
The Finance Policy Manual and Procurement Policy. (Finance Policy Manual and Procurement Policy)
 

Part 4 – Codes and Protocols

Annex J - Code of Conduct for Councillors
The Northern Ireland Local Government Code of Conduct for Councillors issued under section 53 of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 2014.
 
Annex K - Code of Conduct for Officers
Code of Conduct for Officers issued under section 40 of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972. (Employee Code of Conduct)
 
Annex L - Protocol on Member/Officer Relations
The Local Government Employee and Councillor Working Relationship Protocol issued by the Department of the Environment
 

Part 5 – Members’ Allowance Scheme

Annex M - Department of the Environment – Guidance on Councillors’ Allowances
DfC Guidance on Councillors' Allowances
 

Part 6 – Officers’ Management Structure

This stucture is available in the downloadable version of the Mid & East Antrim Borough Council Constitution.

Downloadable versions of the Constitiution and the supporting Annex are available below: