Supplementary Memorandum by Wychavon District
Council (LAG 10(a))
After the District Council elections two years
ago we had 22 new members in a council of 49, we knew of the government's
intention in respect of local authority governance but to have
denied these new members any opportunity to participate in the
decision making process would have been a denial of democracy.
At least in parliament MPs have retained the
right to participate in the decision making process.
So we set out to devise a system that fulfils
the government's intention without creating a two tier status
of councillors. Our system as outlined in our written evidence
is working very well. We are a very streamlined, efficient and
outreaching community based authority. Reading the written evidence
submitted it would appear that all other authorities where cabinet
style administration has been introduced are setting up an alternative
structure to retain the interests of the vast majority of the
councillors who have been marginalised, and to seek in the county
or rural district to identify with the community as part of the
scrutiny system. Our approach is to involve the public and have
the debate before the decision is taken. In our area community
forums are unnecessary as we have some 85 elected parish councils.
A forum is either just a talking shop or becomes a means to bypass
the democratic structure.
We are an authority created out of five local
authorities. Area committees or forums would take us back to where
we were all those years ago. We do not see why Hilary Armstrong
chose an arbitrary population size of 85,000 where she would consider
a fourth option.
We believe that our electorate ought to have
some say as to what is applicable in our district, it is a basic
fact that this democratic principle has been ignored by the current
process. Despite there being no provision for comments as part
of our consultation a range of unsolicited comments highlighting
this democracy issue were made, for example:
I don't like any of these options.
What is wrong with our present democratic system?
The system as it is. None of the
printed options are properly democractic. Directly elected mayors
in our rural area would be a nonsense.
I have to add that I dislike all
three optionswhat is wrong with the present system. It
seems to work very well.
In 1999 the consultation paper Local Leadership,
local choice contained a checklist of government suggestions (see
below) about the immediate steps that councils could take and
our current management arrangements have addressed the majority
Government checklist of immediate steps councils
reducing the number of committees: 19
down to five;
reducing the number of members on
those committees: 21/2 down to 13/14;
reducing or abolishing attendance
introducing prototype cabinets: Leaders
introducing overview and scrutiny
panels: BVSR Panels & Standing CommitteesPerformance
re-evaluating their whistleblowing
introducing standards committees
with independent members: Waited for guidance, will do in
reviewing codes of conduct they have
in place for members: Waited for guidance, will do in 2001;
reviewing officer/member protocols: Done;
introducing independent committees
to advise on member councillors allowances: Done and activated;
refocusing the efforts of councillors
on becoming the engine for public participation in decision taking: Walkabouts,
consultation events, question time;
the arrangements they have in place
for training both newly elected and serving councillors: Training
plan for new members and working with neighbouring Councils to
produce joint plan.