Headlines: March 13th, 2001

Changes in local government seen as the most radical reform for a century are proving to be less radical than Ministers expected. The demise of the committee system of decision taking and replacement by systems that separate councilors into those with an executive role and backbenchers is proving slow to deliver results.So far the only model to be put into practice is that of a cabinet with a leader. A report by the Improvement and Development Agency and New Local Government Network reveals the extent of change resulting from the introduction of the Cabinet/Leader model is fairly modest. It was claimed that the committee system was slow and cumbersome in decision taking, but research has shown that the new model has little impact on the length of the decision taking process.

Another major claim for the Cabinet/Leader model is that it will give greater transparency and the people who take the decisions will be accountable. The report reveals that in one third of councils the cabinet meets in private session. There is also a preference for a collective approach rather than allocating individual decision-making to cabinet members.

A number of councils are preparing to hold a referendum on the introduction of models that include a directly elected mayor.

Link: www.nlgn.org.uk