Democracy delayed at Redcar and Cleveland Council as cabinet consider Labour's third way (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Democracy delayed at Redcar and Cleveland Council as cabinet consider Labour's third way
A PLAN to change the democratic structure of a council has been delayed after members came up with a last minute alternative.
Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council has been grappling with the problem of involving more elected members in the decision making process as concerns were raised about the cabinet system, which sees just ten councillors making the vast majority of decisions.
Under the current system, the ruling Labour party fills all of the key executive roles on the council despite losing its overall majority this month following the defection of two members earlier this month.
Concerns have been raised by opposition members who claim that scrutiny committees, which are designed to monitor decisions made by cabinet members, have become nothing more than ‘talking shops’.
Following weeks of consultation with members, the council came up with two options: to retain the current executive arrangements or to adopt the Improvement Committee proposal combining the decision making of the cabinet system with the inclusivity of the committee system.
However, when the cabinet met to make the decision the Labour group tabled a third option which would see the improvement committees becoming sub-committees of the scrutiny board.
Independent east Cleveland councillor Steve Kay said: “I’m slightly heartened by the fact you are going to look at this again, really whether the improvement committees are sub committees of the scrutiny board really makes no difference.
“Unless you get rid of the cabinet system nothing is really going to change – that was the point of the whole exercise.
“I do feel the cabinet and officers have worked together to keep the cabinet at all costs and come up with a fudge – it tastes of reform but changes nothing.”
And Liberal Democrat councillor Chris Abbott said the current system with scrutiny panels were a pointless exercise and called for a return to the old committee system.
He said: “Members are not becoming involved in anything, members are not turning up for meetings because they have no actual decisions to make – they have just become talking shops.”
However, Councillor Sheelagh Clarke, the deputy leader of the council, railed against the idea.
“The committee system is a dinosaur,” she said. “They are extinct and s they should be. Do you know any big companies that are successful and use the committee system? No. And we are supposed to follow how big businesses’ operate.
“It’s ludicrous to say it was a good system – it was a bad system and we all know it was at heart.”
The eight members of the cabinet who attended the meeting voted unanimously to delay the decision to look at the third option.
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