Memorandum by Councillor Barrie Sutton,
Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council (LAG 01)
It has taken more than 100 years to speciously
conclude that the Local Authority Committee system does not work.
It has taken less than two years for those Authorities
in Wales, who adopted a Cabinet/Executive and Leader system of
governance, to realise that it is shambolic.
Please do not disregard this letter on the grounds
that it is from Wales and should have been addressed to the Welsh
Assembly. The primary legislation on Local Authority "modernisation"
was enacted by Westminster, not the Cardiff Bay talking shop.
What is more efficient, transparent and accountable
than the time honoured Committee system?
My Council's Committees, like those of so many
other Authorities, meet in a monthly cycle. Here policies are
initiated, debated and decided under the public eye and sent to
full Council for approbation or otherwise. Policy decisions, therefore,
hardly ever take more than four weeks for corporate approval.
Committee composition means that at least half the members of
the Council take part in Committee decisions and conclusions.
Full Council making the final endorsement or not.
The Cabinet/Executive with Leader model strikes
me as cabalistic and anti-democratic. 10 members of Council or
less will make policy decisionsless than a quarter of the
present Council membership. The remainder will find themselves
side-lined into scrutiny committees having little or no influence
over policy making. How can such an arrangement be more democratic,
transparent etc, when less publicly elected members are participants.
It creates two classes of Councillor and is highly divisive.
As a Local Authority we have not sought to be
secretive about any aspect of Council affairs with the exception
of matters deemed exempt information under the Local Government
Act 1972, Paragraph 7, 12A. The Press and our Public Libraries
receive all Committee Agenda and Minutes including those of full
Council which is surely the policy of all local Authorities. We
certainly do not require any Home Office directives on transparency.
I read that "sitting in committees"
is to be interpreted as something negative, whereas participating
in Committee decisions must surely be something positive. Further,
membership of Council Committees is not a limitation of one's
community advocacy, in fact, quite the opposite! Committee membership
enables a Councillor to express, on behalf of his/her constituents,
their concerns about x or y decisions by Council.
May I remark that for Cabinet/Executive with
Leader one may equally substitute Mayor & Executive style