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Summary of the Constitution


The Council's Constitution

Preston City 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 16 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 the end of the Constitution.

To view the full constitution in separate parts see full constitution (separate parts).

What's in the Constitution?


Article 1 of the Constitution commits the Council to a style of local government which has integrity, is open to scrutiny; encourages the participation of its citizens; and which focuses on the aspirations and needs of the community it serves.

Articles 2 to 16 explain the rights of citizens and how the key parts of the Council operate.

These are:

  • Members of the Council  - Article 2 
  • Citizens and the Council  - Article 3
  • The Council meeting - Article 4
  • Chairing the Council - Article 5
  • Overview and Scrutiny - Article 6
  • The Cabinet - Article 7
  • Regulatory and other Committees - Article 8
  • None at present - Article 9
  • Other Council bodies - Article 10
  • Joint arrangements - Article 11
  • Officers - Article 12
  • Decision making - Article 13
  • Finance, contracts and legal matters - Article 14
  • Review and revision of the Constitution - Article 15
  • Suspension, interpretation and publication of the Constitution - Article 16

How the Council Operates

The Council is composed of 48 Councillors (Members) with one-third elected three years in four. Members are democratically accountable to residents of their ward.

The overriding duty of Members is to the whole community, but they have a special duty to their constituents, including those who did not vote for them.

Members have to agree to follow a Code of Conduct to ensure high standards in the way they undertake their duties.

The Monitoring Officer trains and advises them on the Code of Conduct. Complaints about Members maybe referred to the Standards Committee.

All Members meet together as the Council. Meetings of the Council are normally open to the public. Here Members decide the Council's overall policies and set the budget each year.

The Council appoint the Leader and in turn he or she appoints the number of Members of the Cabinet at the Annual Council meeting each May.

The full Council also determines and agrees the Terms of Reference for all Committees and appoints Members to serve on them. The full Council holds the Cabinet and Committees to account. There are seven ordinary meetings of the full Council each year.

How Decisions are Made

The Cabinet is the part of the Council which is responsible for most of the more important day-to-day decisions.

The Cabinet is currently made up of a Leader and 9 Cabinet members. When major decisions are to be discussed or made, these are published in the Decision Making Plan in so far as they can be anticipated. If these major decisions are to be discussed with Council Officers at a meeting of the Cabinet, this will generally be open for the public to attend except where personal or confidential matters are being discussed.

The Cabinet has to make decisions which are in line with the Council's overall policies and budget. If it wishes to make a decision which is outside the budget or policy framework, this must be referred to the Council as a whole to decide.

Overview and Scrutiny

The Council has an Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee and a Crime and Disorder Committee.

Task and Finish Groups are also set up to deal with work plan study topics. Together they share three main purposes:

  • to review areas of work as set in the annual work programmes
  • to develop policy to recommend to Cabinet and Council; and
  • review the decisions of the Cabinet as and when required

The meetings are open to the public. The Crime and Disorder Committee and the Task and Finish Groups receive and prepare reports which set out recommendations to Cabinet.

The Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee looks at the performance of the Council and monitors the work of the Cabinet. It can also monitor the decisions of the Cabinet by 'calling in' a decision which has been made by the Cabinet but not yet implemented. This enables the Committee to consider if the Cabinet decision is the right one. They may ask the Cabinet to reconsider the decision or, if they are unhappy, refer the matter for consideration by Council.

The Council's Staff

The Council has people working for it (called "Officers") to give advice, implement decisions and ensure 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. A protocol 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.

Citizens have the right to:

  • vote at local elections if they are registered
  • 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 except where, for example, personal and confidential matters are being discussed
  • petition to request a referendum on having an elected Mayor instead of a Cabinet (different from the Mayor of Preston)
  • participate in the Council's question time and contribute to investigations by the Task and Finish Groups
  • complain about any aspect of Council services (if not satisfied in the first instance to use the Council's formal complaints procedure)
  • find out,from the Cabinet's Decision Making, what major decisions are to be discussed by the Cabinet or decided by the Cabinet or Officers, and when
  • attend meetings of the Cabinet where decisions are being discussed or decided
  • see reports and background papers, and any record of decisions made by the Council and Cabinet
  • complain to the Council through the complaints process if they feel a procedure has been incorrectly applied
  • complain to the Standards Committee if they have evidence which they think shows that a Councillor has not followed the Council's Code of Conduct
  • inspect the Council's accounts and make their views known to the external auditor, who is responsible for the oversight of the Council's financial and corporate governance

The Council welcomes comments from its citizens on its work. It welcomes the public and other interested parties to its meetings.

In most cases, background papers and agendas are available for all meetings. From time to time the Council will seek to involve the public in consultation exercises and the work of the Task and Finish Groups.

For further information about your rights or ways to be involved with the work of the Council, please contact the Head of Member Services on 01772 906112.

You can download a copy of the full Constitution here as well as the Political Management Structure (PDF) [57KB]

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