Herefordshire Council - plan to save cabinet ahead of abolition vote

Cabinet could survive as an all party executive

Cabinet could survive as an all party executive

First published in News Hereford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

CABINET could stay as the “top table” for Herefordshire Council if all parties choose to take a seat.

In a letter to the Hereford Times, former deputy chairman of the council Cllr Chris Chappell says the abolition of cabinet in favour of committees is wrong.

The cabinet system faces a ground breaking survival vote when the full council meets on September 26.

 Cllr Chappell, who defected from the Labour group to the Independents a year ago, is fighting for cabinet to stay saying  a single executive body cannot be completely replaced  by committee made decisions.

“Someone has to be held accountable for implementing committee decisions, and to make the daily decisions that come up in any executive members portfolio,” said Cllr Chappell.

“There is already argument that Council takes too long to make decisions.  With solely a committee run Council, there has by law, to be an agenda published and seven working days notice published, before meeting can take place, too long to get Balfour t,for example, to be asked to take on extra gully cleaning duties,” he said.

Ahead of the cabinet vote, the Independent  is examining options for a more flexible system that offers “backbench” councillors a greater say in decisions, along with stronger scrutiny.

 Cllr Chappell sees a solution in an “executive of all the talents” with input from each party.

“I hope that  It’s Our County, the Lib Dems, Greens and if they wish, the Tories, will join the Independents now, to draw up a new system of government prior to May's election. We need to consult the public too, all of which takes time.   Once decided, a new Constitution and Standing Orders will need to be drafted,” he said.

A similar concept was rejected by opposition parties when offered by the Tories in December last year.

As deputy chairman, Cllr Chappell seconded a motion in January this year that effectively ended the taking of named votes at full council unless that named vote had the support of eight or more members.

The way  is clear for councillors to end cabinet control of  the council should members vote to do so.

Legislation allows for the council to re-adopt a committee system of governance with relative ease.

A combined opposition vote at the September 26 meeting would defeat any Tory attempt to defend cabinet.

The Tory group currently controls the council – through cabinet – as a minority.

A committee system is still a permitted form of council governance under the Localism Act 2011.

The Act allows for a change in governance arrangements through a full council resolution.

A notice must also be published informing the public that the council intends to change its governance arrangements having passed a resolution to support the change.

Copies of the documents detailing the changes must also be available for inspection.

Ending cabinet control would also require a re-write of the council’s constitution.

Once a council has passed a resolution to change its governance arrangements, the Act says those arrangements cannot change again for another five years, unless the second resolution is approved following a referendum.

Cabinet control of the council could over ahead of the next local elections if full council votes for the abolition motion at its meeting on September 26.

The motion is proposed by Cllr Terry James, Lib-Dem group leader, who headed the council’s first cabinet in 1999.

Support for the motion is expected from the Independent group and It’s Our County (IOC).

Alternatives to cabinet include a wider ranging committee system and more voting power for the full council.

Cllr James said successive cabinets had come to forget their purpose to appear as little more than a body delegating decisions to officers rather than running the council.

“We see millions of pounds being spent on setting up new offices at Plough Lane and Hereford Shire Hall while grass doesn’t get cut to save a few thousand,” he said.

Dissatisfaction with the cabinet system has simmered on the council’s “backbenches”  for some years.

 Many members believe cabinet stifles their voice and diminishes the role of ward councillor.

Equally long-running are concerns over “closed doors”  when key or sensitive decisions are discussed.

IT’s Our County (IOC) leader Cllr Anthony Powers said his party was already “actively exploring” alternatives to cabinet that could be presented as policy.

“There is a need to re-build the council’s decision-making processes. Cabinet leaves too many decisions to too few, more councillors should be getting a greater say in decisions,” said Cllr Powers.

Cllr Bob Matthews, Independent group leader, said his members wanted “changes in some form” to decision making ahead of the election.

Those changes, said Cllr Matthews, centred on ideas around a system that was based more around specific committees than a single cabinet – spreading the scope of representation.

Cabinet, as such, could be made up of the committee chairman with the council leader getting the casting vote, he said.

The intention to change, outlined by Cllr Matthews in a letter to the Hereford Times earlier this month, moved the abolition motion forward.

The role of scrutiny is widely seen as in need of an overhaul too.

In May, the Independents and Tories took control of the overview and scrutiny committee, ousting the IOC chairman and deputy chairman.

That move brought  fears over the political and strategic function of scrutiny - as a body specifically set up to challenge cabinet decision making – to the fore.

The concept of a cabinet was one the first executive issues to face Herefordshire Council from its start in 1998.

Then, a government white paper outlined the abolition of traditional committee and sub-committee systems, seen as diffusing responsibility and leaving voters unclear as where decision making powers lay.

The then group leaders were united on the idea of a cabinet that met only behind closed doors – as the white paper allowed.

Arguments in favour of closed doors cited the “openness” offered by mixed party scrutiny committees responsible for specific service areas.

 The Hereford Times led calls for cabinet to open its doors, but resistance to the body meeting in public continued to January 2000 ahead of a reform motion being put to full council .

That motion was headed off in the chamber, with the then council leader Cllr James  conceding that cabinet proceedings would go public.

The size of cabinet, and the roles available within it, has fluctuated since with opposition leaders allowed a say at each meeting and local members when issues specific to constituencies were discussed.

 

Comments (10)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

3:41pm Wed 27 Aug 14

probono says...

How ironic of Councill James to criticise the very system he insisted was set up. I remember well the days of the Secret Seven who met behind closed doors with only the then Chief Executive. Other Councillors and party leaders were not allowed to attend until public criticism and pressure brought about a much needed change. As a decision making body it is now seemingly open and in public and as Councillor Chappel remarks not bound by the notice and administration rules that a multi committee system has.
How ironic of Councill James to criticise the very system he insisted was set up. I remember well the days of the Secret Seven who met behind closed doors with only the then Chief Executive. Other Councillors and party leaders were not allowed to attend until public criticism and pressure brought about a much needed change. As a decision making body it is now seemingly open and in public and as Councillor Chappel remarks not bound by the notice and administration rules that a multi committee system has. probono
  • Score: 5

4:40pm Wed 27 Aug 14

fmrbill says...

accountable u having a laugh,pls show me ANYONE who has been held accountable for all the wrong decisions this csbinet have made, no one as fallen on their sword or said sorry. the only time anyone held accountable is at elections role on 2015 and be gone with you
accountable u having a laugh,pls show me ANYONE who has been held accountable for all the wrong decisions this csbinet have made, no one as fallen on their sword or said sorry. the only time anyone held accountable is at elections role on 2015 and be gone with you fmrbill
  • Score: 5

4:48pm Wed 27 Aug 14

Herefordian07 says...

I believe the Cabinet rule to be undemocratic and it should go. Why bother to vote for your ward councillor if they cannot have influence in the total decision process?
I believe the Cabinet rule to be undemocratic and it should go. Why bother to vote for your ward councillor if they cannot have influence in the total decision process? Herefordian07
  • Score: 10

8:02pm Wed 27 Aug 14

alderley says...

Is Councillor Chappell seriously suggesting that if Cabinet was abolished they would need to call a Committee meeting to ask Balfour Beatty to clean the drains? That would never have been a problem in the past, and if it's a problem now the Council should terminate the contract and bring the service back in house so that they have better control over it.
Is Councillor Chappell seriously suggesting that if Cabinet was abolished they would need to call a Committee meeting to ask Balfour Beatty to clean the drains? That would never have been a problem in the past, and if it's a problem now the Council should terminate the contract and bring the service back in house so that they have better control over it. alderley
  • Score: 13

9:30pm Wed 27 Aug 14

jarvis 2 says...

Councillor Chappell is nothing but a dinosor that still lives in the past he has had nothing to contibute to the demcatic system his left wing veiws should be left where they belonge in north koria. This is a guy that wants to intrgate more Muslim and ethnic veiws on us all supports building moscs and muslim day centers. The reason he likes cabinet is the fact that no one will know what is said its all secret and he and his cronies arn t held to acount. This is one dispicable guy he is one that should fall on his sword.
Councillor Chappell is nothing but a dinosor that still lives in the past he has had nothing to contibute to the demcatic system his left wing veiws should be left where they belonge in north koria. This is a guy that wants to intrgate more Muslim and ethnic veiws on us all supports building moscs and muslim day centers. The reason he likes cabinet is the fact that no one will know what is said its all secret and he and his cronies arn t held to acount. This is one dispicable guy he is one that should fall on his sword. jarvis 2
  • Score: -7

9:35pm Wed 27 Aug 14

Brownface60 says...

jarvis 2 wrote:
Councillor Chappell is nothing but a dinosor that still lives in the past he has had nothing to contibute to the demcatic system his left wing veiws should be left where they belonge in north koria. This is a guy that wants to intrgate more Muslim and ethnic veiws on us all supports building moscs and muslim day centers. The reason he likes cabinet is the fact that no one will know what is said its all secret and he and his cronies arn t held to acount. This is one dispicable guy he is one that should fall on his sword.
Lern too spel!
[quote][p][bold]jarvis 2[/bold] wrote: Councillor Chappell is nothing but a dinosor that still lives in the past he has had nothing to contibute to the demcatic system his left wing veiws should be left where they belonge in north koria. This is a guy that wants to intrgate more Muslim and ethnic veiws on us all supports building moscs and muslim day centers. The reason he likes cabinet is the fact that no one will know what is said its all secret and he and his cronies arn t held to acount. This is one dispicable guy he is one that should fall on his sword.[/p][/quote]Lern too spel! Brownface60
  • Score: 6

9:36pm Wed 27 Aug 14

jarvis 2 says...

Brownface60 wrote:
jarvis 2 wrote:
Councillor Chappell is nothing but a dinosor that still lives in the past he has had nothing to contibute to the demcatic system his left wing veiws should be left where they belonge in north koria. This is a guy that wants to intrgate more Muslim and ethnic veiws on us all supports building moscs and muslim day centers. The reason he likes cabinet is the fact that no one will know what is said its all secret and he and his cronies arn t held to acount. This is one dispicable guy he is one that should fall on his sword.
Lern too spel!
i will but can see the key pad on i phone as i have sight problems
[quote][p][bold]Brownface60[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]jarvis 2[/bold] wrote: Councillor Chappell is nothing but a dinosor that still lives in the past he has had nothing to contibute to the demcatic system his left wing veiws should be left where they belonge in north koria. This is a guy that wants to intrgate more Muslim and ethnic veiws on us all supports building moscs and muslim day centers. The reason he likes cabinet is the fact that no one will know what is said its all secret and he and his cronies arn t held to acount. This is one dispicable guy he is one that should fall on his sword.[/p][/quote]Lern too spel![/p][/quote]i will but can see the key pad on i phone as i have sight problems jarvis 2
  • Score: 3

7:35am Thu 28 Aug 14

denon says...

If the Cabinet is secret I must be in the cloak of invisibility since I have be to several meeting and I have not been asked to leave
If the Cabinet is secret I must be in the cloak of invisibility since I have be to several meeting and I have not been asked to leave denon
  • Score: -1

10:48am Thu 28 Aug 14

probono says...

Denon - that is the very change that some of us and the HT campaigned for. Even Worcestershire Council's Leader went on the radio to criticise the way things were done. Now, as you say, meetings are open to anyone, as they should be. Running the committee system again would involve a lot more officer time, and an attendance allowance for every member of the Committee and those 'in attendance' such as local members for an issue in their area, and leaders of the other groups and parties as well as officer to advise members on pints. I look to the Planning Committee as an example. This of course is best done by committee, but I often wonder exactly how much each meeting costs the Council tax payers in attendance allowances for the large number who go along.
Denon - that is the very change that some of us and the HT campaigned for. Even Worcestershire Council's Leader went on the radio to criticise the way things were done. Now, as you say, meetings are open to anyone, as they should be. Running the committee system again would involve a lot more officer time, and an attendance allowance for every member of the Committee and those 'in attendance' such as local members for an issue in their area, and leaders of the other groups and parties as well as officer to advise members on pints. I look to the Planning Committee as an example. This of course is best done by committee, but I often wonder exactly how much each meeting costs the Council tax payers in attendance allowances for the large number who go along. probono
  • Score: 1

10:49am Thu 28 Aug 14

probono says...

PS
It seems to me that some of the people on here object to the members of the Cabinet, and some of their past decisions. But that is not a reason for abolishing it.
PS It seems to me that some of the people on here object to the members of the Cabinet, and some of their past decisions. But that is not a reason for abolishing it. probono
  • Score: 0
Post a comment

Remember you are personally responsible for what you post on this site and must abide by our site terms. Do not post anything that is false, abusive or malicious. If you wish to complain, please use the ‘report this post’ link.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree