Headlines: December 21st, 2000

Deciding on the new council structure to replace the ‘committee system’ will be made easier by a set of blueprint options published by the Department for Environment, Transport and Regions. The document sets out a possible structure for the models of a leader with a cabinet, a mayor with a cabinet, or a mayor with a council manager. It emphases the wide diversity of possible options and variations.Councils can decide which model to adopt, but there must be prior public consultation. A referendum must be held before adopting a model that includes a directly elected mayor.

The ‘committee system’ has survived for a century, but it has long been recognised as inefficient. It has also been criticised because major decisions are often taken by the ruling political party behind closed doors and citizens have no idea who is actually taking decisions. This has led to a popular view of councils as bureaucracy laden, inefficient institutions that are open to corruption. The new structures will give greater efficiency, they are transparent and the people who take the decisions will be accountable.

Many councillors are less than sympathetic to the changes because they see their role being down graded from a decision taking committee member to a backbencher scrutinising decisions taken by the executive.

Link: http://www.local-regions.detr.gov.uk.