Guide to Union Council

Union council logoUnion Council is the Union's democratic structure. It's where you can debate and discuss issues that affect us all, and where elected student councillors vote on proposals and policies. This is an overview of how Union Council works and how you can participate.

If you have any questions about any aspect of Union Council, get in touch with either Activities Officer Dan Schofield or Ian Bruce.

Purpose of Council

Through debating and passing policies, create change that will enhance the student experience, to set the Union’s stance on key issues, and to identify and conduct campaigns on relevant topics.

What should I do before the meeting?

  • Ensure that you've submitted any proposals that you want to see discussed. To find out how to do this please see below.
  • Read over the agenda
  • Talk to other students about the proposals that are coming to Council
  • Read over minutes. If you have any questions submit these to Pat Newberry beforehand.
  • If you're a councillor are unable to attend the meeting, then please send an apology, or forward to Pat the name of somebody who is happy to attend in your place, this is called a proxy. Alternatively, send an apology. A valid apology is either due to academic commitments or mitigating circumstances.

How do I submit a Union Council proposal?

  • If you want to submit a proposal, you must have already submitted a Change It or Explain It and had it discussed at a Zone meeting.
  • To submit a proposal please complete the proposal form and submit it to Pat Newberry before the deadline.
  • You do not have to attend the meeting for your proposal to be presented, this will be done on your behalf if you cannot attend.

What should I do when I arrive?

  • Sign in at the front and, if you're a councillor, collect your voting card. This will have a number on it; you will keep the same card throughout your term of office.
  • Sit down, relax, and have a chat to some of your fellow attendees. The meeting will start as close to 6.30pm as possible so please arrive in plenty of time.

What is the structure of a Council Meeting?

  • The main focus of Union Council meetings is to discuss the proposals that have been submitted, which were initially discussed in the zone meetings.
  • Meetings are designed to last no more than 2.5 hours and there is a limit of 15 minutes per proposal.
  • Proposals are discussed at the beginning and end of the meeting. 30 minutes in the middle of the meeting is reserved for presentations and the approval of Scrutiny Committee minutes.

How are proposals considered?

  • The member bringing forward the proposal is given 2 minutes to introduce the idea(s), and saying why they think it is a good idea (speak for a proposal).
  • Following this, one person can give a 2 minute speech outlining why they think the idea(s) aren’t a good idea (speak against a proposal). 
  • After this the Chair will open the issue up for debate, this is your opportunity to make any points or ask any questions. Please note that whenever possible the Chair will limit each individual point to one minute.
  • To ask questions or outline your view on the proposal, simply raise your hand and wait until the Chair asks for your opinion. It is the Chair’s role to ensure that as many people as possible, within the timeframe, are given an opportunity to present their views.
  • Once the debate has finished the Chair will invite councillors to vote on the proposal.

Voting

  • When a vote is taking place the Chair will ask whether councillors wish to:-
    • Vote for the Proposal
    • Vote against the Proposal
    • Abstain – neither a vote for or against
  • If you're a councillor, you vote by raising your voting card. You are only permitted to vote for one option.
  • In general, if a proposal receives a simple majority of votes in favour, it is passed, unless there are more than 50% of members who have abstained.
  • All votes are recorded by the Scrutiny Committee, so please hold your cards up and bear with us, as it can take a little while to get used to this.

What happens next?

If a proposal is passed, a task and finish group will be set up to oversee the implementation of the policy. If you wish to help with this then please feel free to attend Task and Finish Group meetings.

Presentations

There is often a presentation/talk on a particular topic or development, either within the Union or the University.

Minutes

You will be presented with minutes from the Scrutiny Committee, which may include excerpts from other sets of minutes such as Executive Committee and Representative Committee. If you have any question(s) regarding these then please submit them to Pat before the meeting, the Chair will then ask you to outline your question to the relevant officer, who will then respond to your question.

What is Scrutiny Committee’s role?

They are there to help oversee and facilitate Union Council Meetings. You will see Scrutiny Committee counting votes, facilitating the signing in and out of attendees, and where necessary helping and supporting the Chair. In addition, as part of the Scrutiny Committee’s Officers’ wider role they are responsible for elections, the Union’s Bye Laws and holding all elected Officers to account.

Procedural Motions – What are they and how do they work?

  • Reduced in number since last year, if you want to change the order of business you need to request this at least 2 hours before the start of the meeting to Pat, similarly if you want more time for a particular item you need to request this by the same deadline.
  • Procedural motions are a list of actions that councillors can call:
    1. No-confidence in the Chair for the rest of the meeting.
    2. A challenge to the Chair’s ruling.
    3. That the matter be referred to another Union meeting.
    4. That the matter be put to the vote.
    5. That the vote be held by secret ballot.
    6. That a re-count be held.
    7. That the matter be voted on in parts.

If you're a councillor, you can call a procedural motion by raising your hand and stating which of the procedural motions you wish to call. For example if you wanted for a particular vote to be held by a secret ballot you would say ‘I wish to call Procedural Motion number 5 ‘That the vote be held by secret ballot’ and then give a short description of why you have called the motion. When a procedural motion is called the current discussion/debate stops, and the procedural motion is then debated and voted on. It is important to note that whilst this is ongoing, no debate can be held on the original proposal. A vote is held and a simple majority vote is sufficient for a procedural motion to pass. If it passes the action is taken, and then if appropriate we return to the original debate.