The scheduled Suffolk County Council meeting scheduled for Thursday 26th did not take place but was deferred due to the sudden death of the Council Leader’s father. One of the items of business carried forward was a motion proposed by Councillor Mark Ereira-Guyer (Leader of the Green and Independent Group on Suffolk County Council) and seconded by Councillor Bill Mountford (Leader of the UKIP Group) requiring the Council to improve its governance arrangements and start to operate a more inclusive and engaging committee system of governance. Currently the Council operates a Cabinet system of Governance.
Why are motion proposers trying to drag us back into the twentieth century? I’ve been privileged to experience governance by committee and governance by Cabinet.
Local Government Governance by Committee tends to be the fig leaf by which democratic legitimacy is granted to the wishes, intentions and decisions of the executive. Power in committees more often does not lie with chairmen nor with members but with the Secretariat who decide
what goes on the agendas,
how it is presented and
when it comes forward.
Documents are prepared so as to lead the way and make the Committee approval virtually a foregone conclusion.
By way of example, the executive in Babergh decided that Hadleigh should be incorporated into the Ipswich/Felixstowe proposed unitary Council. There was no mention that the people of Hadleigh were against the idea and there was no reference to the democratic inconsistencies in the motion. Yet, the motion was overwhelmingly passed with only three members dissenting.
Why are we being asked to return to the twentieth century?
Do the proposers seriously think that the Committee system of local governance is more efficient and more democratic?
It’s certainly more bureaucratic and is less responsive to the needs of the residents.
Committees tend to be mere talking shops.
Members like the sound of their own voices.
Members can be cloaked in the misbelief that they are taking decisions and are participating fully in the well running of their Council, whereas, in fact, they are glorified seat warmers. Decisions are made elsewhere and the function of Councillors is then not
- to guide,
- decide and
- hold to account
but to be legal bystanders in a process which they do not control and in which the Sir Humphreys of this world flourish.
- Foxes should not look after chickens,
- goats should not be in charge of cabbages.
- Executive should be servants not masters.
I plan to be at the next Council meeting when I will speak against this motion.