TRAINING is to be made compulsory for Craven councillors responsible for making planning decisions following complaints from members of the public about the conduct of members at meetings.

Mandatory training sessions will be carried out for members of Craven District Council’s planning Committee instead of on a voluntary basis, as is currently the case.

Compulsory training will also be carried out for members of the council’s licensing committee, which considers policies in relation to the granting of licences for the sale of alcohol and the provision of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles, as well as sex shops.

The training will also be made available to all members of the council, but not on a compulsory basis, whether they sit on either of the two committees or not, following the intervention of Cllr Andy Brown.

Councillors at Tuesday's full council meeting agreed to the changes as part of the annual review of the council’s constitution.

In a report to councillors, Annette Moppett, the council’s solicitor and monitoring officer, said training for members of the two committees was not currently mandatory, but was considered good practice and was compulsory in many local authorities, including the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

“At Craven District Council, training for members has traditionally been informal and taken the form of briefings, policy updates and organised training sessions on specific topics,” she said in the report.

Changes to the council’s training policy follows a report to its standards committee last year which discussed training for planning committee members.

“While the committee accepted that training was not a legal requirement, it was however concerned about the number of complaints being made about the conduct of members of planning committee and approved a formal training programme. Standards committee was also keen that the introduction of mandatory training be explored, “ said Ms Moppett in her report.

Ms Moppett’s report added that it was correct to say that ‘a council whose relevant members are untrained are at risk of its decisions being struck down by the courts on judicial review.’

Cllr Peter Madeley said it was right that training be compulsory for members of the two committees as both concerned issues of real and major importance to people.

“The most controversial thing we do is planning, I think it is right for members to have to take planning and licensing training.”

Cllr David Ireton, chairman of the council’s standards committee, also welcomed training, adding it was what members of the public asked about more than anything.

“Members need to be fully trained, before they make decisions and I would expect this authority to welcome that,” he said.

Cllr Alan Sutcliffe, chairman of the planning committee, said it was important that training be carried out on a regular basis because government policy was constantly being updated.