Thursday, 22 July 2010

Latest news from the Eric Pickles Appreciation Society

Now this is getting worrying.

After agreeing with Eric Pickles about golden handshakes and then about weekly bin collections, I'm now forced to support him in his call for councils to be able to choose the best governance model it chooses.

In an interview with Iain Dale for Total Politics magazine, Pickles was asked:

ID: The cabinet system in local authorities is very unpopular with a lot of people. If local authorities wanted to change that and go back to the committee system, what would your reaction be?

EP: Fine. We will be putting something into the local government bill to let them do that. I don’t care how things are organised. They can have it on the basis of a committee system, on a cabinet basis, on the mayoral system. If they want to introduce it on a choral system with various members of the council singing sea shanties I don’t mind, providing it’s accountable, transparent and open. That’s all I need to know.

I'm really not sure about Jim Currie's singing voice, but it is clearly good news that true localism is going to be allowed to flourish in this respect and that Cornwall Council will be able to choose whether it wants to continue with a system whereby all power is held in the hands of just ten of the 123 elected members or whether a committee system where nearly all councillors can play a substantial role is a better option.

Pickles has been (rightly) attacked by some of my readers over the bins statement as this implies a centralised diktat from government - even if I happen to agree with Pickles' line on the issue. But this is different as it will mean genuine power to decide for the whole council.

As an example of why things need changing, at today's communities scrutiny meeting we were due to have reports from the three Cabinet members whose portfolios the committee shadows. They didn't appear, apparently because the Leader had unilaterally decided that they should not do so and a centralised system for all scrutiny committees should be imposed. That's not open and transparent and it removes the ability of scrutiny committees to decide for themselves how best to examine the work of the Cabinet.

I'm prepared to bet that spreading out power is not something that the current Cabinet are going to support, but it is certainly something that I think should be properly decided by all councillors as soon as the law allows.

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