South Gloucestershire Council has tonight voted to abolish the undemocratic Cabinet, and to return to a Committee system of governance, where all members are involved in decision-making processes.
Councils were forced to disband their committees by the Labour government, but new powers in the Localism Act allowed them to return to collective decision-making. South Gloucestershire is one of the first authorities in the country to take advantage of this new power to return decision-making closer to the people.
Cllr Ruth Davis, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on South Gloucestershire Council, said:
“Residents of South Gloucestershire voted for a balanced council – they didn’t want any one party to be in complete control. The concentration of all decision-making in a seven-member cabinet doesn’t have to be bad – but it’s better to have it dispersed. Involving, more members means that more points of view are represented, which is vital in a diverse area like South Gloucestershire where no one party and opinion dominates.”
“All Councils will need to decide what model works for them – we’ve always been consensual and co-operative on South Gloucestershire. Now, for the first time in ten years, the law allows us to operate a system of governance which reflects that.”
Cllr Claire Young (Liberal Democrat, Westerleigh) added:
“This is a chance for all 70 members of the authority to get involved – every front and back bencher on all sides. It’s an exciting opportunity to move this council forward, moving power closer to the people, and all of their elected representatives – of all three parties.”
Cllr Pat Hockey (Liberal Democrat, Frampton Cotterell) said:
“This administration’s record on public consultation has been awful. We’ve seen the quality of administration produced by one party taking all the cabinet posts, and pushing their will through, and we can do so much better. The public were consulted on a budget that had no information. Government gave us the right to choose our own arrangements, and we’re now moving to a far better system. We’ve got the challenge of giving back power to the people through the Localism Act in these straitened financial times with reduced resources. We need every Councillor to be pulling their weight, and working together to ensure that the public get the best possible deal.”
Cllr Ian Blair (Liberal Democrat, Yate North) said:
“Cross-party working was a feature of this council before – why wouldn’t it be afterwards? The only reason it wouldn’t work would be if the Tories decide to make it not work.”
All 21 Liberal Democrats voted for the proposal in a named vote, as did all 15 Labour members. 34 Conservatives voted to retain the cabinet structure. The change will take effect from the AGM on 23rd May 2012, when a new constitution will be adopted.
Source: South Gloucestershire Council Liberal Democrat Group