Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Cornwall will consider return to committee system

Cornwall Council will consider abandoning the 'leader and cabinet' model of governance and returning to the old committee system. That was the pledge made by Council Leader Alec Robertson when I questioned him today at full council.

A few years ago, the Labour Government forced all but the smallest councils to choose between three new models of governance. The vast majority chose the leader and cabinet model. The Council as a whole elects the leader who in turn picks up to nine cabinet members to help him or her run the council. All executive power rests with the cabinet and the remaining councillors have little say in the day to day decisions which affect peoples' lives. This system has been criticised for resulting in secretive decision making - certainly an accusation we can recognise in the case of Cornwall.

Other options open to authorities were the Mayor and cabinet model (where there is a directly elected mayor who holds all power) or the council manager model (where a chief officer has the power).

Only the very smallest councils were allowed to take the so-called 'fourth option' of having specialist committees making all the decisions. There would still be a council leader but he or she would simply be the chair of one of the committees. Most, if not all, councillors would serve on at least one of the committees and so all would share in decision making.

Today I asked Alec Robertson whether, in view of Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles' comments that he would allow councils to choose their own system, he would be supporting the right of Cornwall councillors to make the choice when the legislation allows. He agreed and said that he had an open mind on the subject and would not be pre-judging the issue.

I hope that Mr Pickles will get on with bringing forward the change in the law as soon as possible so that Cornwall can make its choice.

1 comment:

Chris Black said...

Your Mr Robertson is Tory?


Oddly enough we've just debated this a little bit tonight in Rochford. We put forward a motion :

‘That this Council welcomes the statement by the Liberal Conservative Coalition Government that they will allow Councils to return to the committee system, should they wish to.’

It seemed to hit a really raw nerve and the Tories voted it down as a block !