Memorandum by the Officers, Barnet London
Borough (LAG 46)
I refer to your press notice 69/1999-2000 inviting
views from local authorities, particularly those who have experimented
with new forms of political management for some time.
Barnet Council introduced a Leader/Cabinet form
of governance in November 1998, within the limitations imposed
by legislation at that time. The arrangements were reviewed in
November 1999 and are still operating.
The system was studied by the Local Government
Information Unit and is described in their special briefing No.
54 a copy of which is enclosed. This covers a number of areas
the Committee wishes to examine.
It took some time, probably a year, for the
impact of the new arrangements to be understood fully. It is now
common practice for local newspapers to refer to individual councillors
as "the cabinet member for..." and to describe them
as the person responsible for a particular Council service.
A small group of leading members from the three
political groups on the Council is currently working with officers
on arrangements and recommendations to the Council to implement
the requirements of the Local Government Act 2000. One of their
recommendations will be to continue with the use of area forums.
These have been a considerable success in enabling citizens to
have their say about the work of the Council. A forum is held
monthly in three areas of the borough with regular attendance
of 50-60 members of the public at each.
The scrutiny commissions in our current arrangements
will become overview and scrutiny committees. They play a major
role in the operation of the Council and their importance is recognised,
with some far-reaching and beneficial investigations already undertaken.
A particular current issue is strengthening support for this function.
The DETR guidance and model has been useful
to the officers who are drafting the constitution. This is a major
piece of work with limited time available.
The Council is about to start widespread consultation
on the three governance models. The member group has been taking
evidence from local interest and community groups who have all
expressed support for the Leader/Cabinet model. This is the preferred