Here’s an interesting development to keep an eye on at Colchester Town Hall over the next few months: the ruling LibDem party is considering the possibility of ditching the current Cabinet form of local governance and reverting back to the previous Committee system.
Localism is the buzzword up and down the country right now. That nice Eric Pickles is keen for local authorities to press ahead wit a hyperlocal agenda that fits their own localised model.
That nice Eric Pickles is also keen to save cash.
Back in the day and it was Mr Tony’s Nu Labour lot that fell in love with the current Cabinet system.
You don’t say.
This allows for a Leader or political Mayor to be appointed, who is then given the power to appoint a Cabinet. Here in Sunny Colch and we have Cllr Anne Turrell as the Leader of the Council [although strangely not of her own LibDem party...]
The current legislation then allows the Leader to appoint a Cabinet of anything between two and nine Councillors. It’s not quite a Rainbow Alliance, but the curious mix of the LibDem / Labour / Independent Cabinet at CBC has eight members.
Decisions are taken by each Portfolio Holder for their own patch. In theory these can be called in by Scrutiny, but the PH has the final say to override any opposition.
The local LibDems are now circulating internally the idea of ditching this and reverting back to the Committee System, as suggested by that nice Eric Pickles.
In a document seen by The Chronic, the pros and cons of such a Back to the Future move are explained to the local LibDem Councillors:
All councillors would be part of the decision-making process, and responsibility for a decision would be shared amongst more councillors.
There’d be more openness and accountability around decisions, both for councillors and the general public.
Without an administration and Cabinet as such, there may be less ‘them and us’ with the opposition.
Depending on how committees are structured, it’s possible for a Finance or Strategy and Policy committee to dominate and override decisions made at other committees.
Decisions may take longer to make, especially if a committee keeps referring back reports.
Committees may seek to avoid making tough decisions in public.”
As for the cost of this switch?
The document seen by The Chronic states:
“Councils that have taken this step have said it will reduce their costs, but that would obviously depend on a number of issues, including the number of committees established and what allowances committee chairs etc would receive. There could be more administration work involved, though there would also be savings from removing the Cabinet and the associated costs of that.”
We’ve blogged before at The Chronic about the current farce that is CBC Cabinet. Public meetings simply pay lip service to observe the incredibly low level of public participation taking place.
REAL political power rests behind the closed doors of the ruling party Cabinet elite. CLOSED meetings take place immediately before any public meeting. It is here where the genuine debate and decisions are made.
The Chronic once mistakenly walked in on one of these.
If the current CBC Cabinet wants to shift back to a Committee system, it would require the support of the other political parties in Colchester. May 2014 could be the earliest that this could be achieved.
May 2014 is also the date for the next round of CBC local elections…
Nottinghamshire County Council, Brighton and Hove Council and the London Borough of Sutton have all already agreed to take up the advice of that nice Eric Pickles.
Should Sunny Colch follow?
Do Turkeys vote for Christmas?
What do you think, Comrades?