30 Nov 2012

Move to committee system agreed

Ebley Mill Council Chamber
Last night at Full Council (meeting was cancelled last week due to weather) the key item was the change to a Committee system for the District Council set to come at AGM in 2013. I am very hopefully that a return to this system will give much greater chance for all councillors to be more involved - and gain experience - at the moment we seem to have two classes of councillors - the Cabinet or Exec member with all the work and ability to make decisions and the rest of the councillors - under the new system there is much greater democracy - more open decision making....

In brief: cabinets and committees

Committee system. Councils set up committees covering whatever subject areas they choose. All councillors sit on a number of committees, which vote on matters before them. A full council meeting can be needed to give effect to a decision.

Cabinet system. Decision-making power rests with the cabinet. Other councillors scrutinise their decisions and consider long-term policy. Full council has certain powers over budgets and overall policy direction.

Well the Conservatives voted against the change - it may have been about the lack of some details although it appeared from some of the speeches that there was also a resistance to change - yet opposition councillors will be set to have more powers....and Conservative councils elsewhere are making the change....

Indeed when the chair of a scrutiny was vacated last night the seat was left for opposition councillors to fill rather than the administration - unlike the Conservatives who saw fit to fill some of those posts with their own councillors previously.

Councillors who were around over 12 years ago would have seen the Committee system and those who had experienced that all talked about the benefits over the Cabinet system...as someone who has not seen it in action I have read lots and it does appear to have the benefits outlined above but of course the proof will be in the pudding.....

Update - here's a note from SDC press release:

Leader of Stroud District Council, Geoff Wheeler, said ''The current arrangements, which will continue until May next year, mean that a council leader and a small number of councillors who make up an executive drawn from the Labour, Lib Dem and Green groups, are responsible for a large number of important decisions. This means that many councillors from all political parties are unable to make valuable contributions on important issues.'

Between now and the council's annual general meeting in May a working group will be set up to finalise the structure of the new system. Currently, decisions made under the cabinet system are scrutinised by council scrutiny committees chaired by opposition councillors but under the new system this would not be required as decisions would be made by groups of councillors from all parties.

Councillor Wheeler added: 'The new system we have introduced will engage more councillors in decision making and ensure that all 51 of them are able to contribute their talents. It will lead to more considered, balanced and higher quality decision making which will benefit the district as a whole, and I'm looking forward to working closely with all councillors to achieve those aims.'

The new system was voted in by a majority (26 for, 19 against, with one abstention).

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