16 May 2013

We go to Committee system - more democracy

Spring here....?
Last year as noted on this blog the council decided to move from its current executive decision making system to a different style of decision making known as a committee system. In the past a small number of councillors known as the Cabinet or Executive would make the majority of decisions. This decision making body would be made up only of members of the administration.  These councillors were then held to account by 2 scrutiny committees......

That previous system in my view - and in others view - was not very effective...indeed it meant other councillors did not have much of a role or say - some also commented that some Cabinet or Exec members just went along with officers views- whether true or not the committee system offers opportunities for much more involvement by all councillors in decisions.

Last night was our Stroud District Council AGM and we agreed that all decisions involving councillors will be made by committees made up of councillors from all groups in the proportion they are elected to the council.  There will be no individual decision making by councillors under the new committee system.

This means that in addition to the meetings of full council, there will be 4 Service or Policy Committees – Strategy and Resources, Community Services, Environment and a Housing Committee that will deal with council housing stock issues.  There will also be 3 quasi judicial committees – Development Control, Audit and Standards and Licensing. This is a similar number of committees to before but they will now set high level strategy and policy and will monitor performance. 

Officers will still make operational decisions within or to further these strategies and policies under delegated powers.

Councillors allowances; money saved

This has meant a change to the allowance system for councillors - a change that is leading to savings of over £50,000 a year.  The Tories disingenuously, in my view, tried to claim this was a rise of over 8% in allowances - yet it is an overall cut - indeed if they had been so concerned about allowances why had they not cut allowances previously when they were receiving the Cabinet allowances - if anything this new system is much fairer - the basic allowance rises by about £300 a year to reflect the additional work and responsibilities while there are cuts to other allowances including travel.  This is about sharing responsibilities wider rather than being in the hands of a few....

If anything if we are to try and attract more representative councillors then we should be increasing the allowances - at the moment there is a significant number of people who have private incomes/pensions that allow them to participate - that's great but it does mean we don't get a very representative Council....

Leader of Stroud District Council, Geoff Wheeler, said: 'The previous system meant that a small number of councillors were responsible for a large number of important decisions. This meant that many talented and passionate councillors from all political parties were unable to make valuable contributions on important issues.'

Cabinet and scrutiny meetings have been replaced by four committees ie:

*    Strategy and Resources
*    Community Services
*    Environment
*    Housing

For me I will now be joining Housing - and several sub-committees relating to housing - lots more on that in future blogs....

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