South Gloucestershire's Labour Campaign Team
Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire have heralded the Council’s decision this evening to scrap its ruling Cabinet and move to a Committee system of decision making which will involve all 70 councillors as great for democracy and transparency.
From mid May politically proportional committees will make the authority’s key decisions instead of just 7 Conservative “Executive” councillors. The decision was made by the narrow margin of 36-34, with Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors backing the change and the ruling minority Conservatives resisting.
After the vote, Labour Leader Councillor Andy Perkins (Labour, Woodstock) said:
“This is a great decision for democracy and transparency in South Gloucestershire. Now all 70 councillors will have a stake in making decisions. The decisions will be made at meetings in public, and as we are a hung council there will probably be a fair amount of debate beforehand, which has been entirely lacking here.”
Under the old system, which will disappear on 23rd May, an elite of 7 “Executive” councillors made all the key decisions and many were made by individual councillors with the stroke of a pen. These decisions could not be overturned by the remaining 90% of councillors. Although the Conservatives do not have a majority of council seats and did not get a majority of votes last year, they controlled the Executive.
Councillor Perkins said:
“We recognise that the Conservatives had a vested interest in maintaining the status quo and were bound to oppose the change. But the deficiencies in the current system in terms of accountability, transparency, democracy and cost are so self-evident that the Council is absolutely right to make this change as soon as it can.”
Responding to criticism from local Conservative MPs, Councillor Perkins said:
“Certain MPs have demeaned themselves with their wild and inaccurate accusations about this decision and its implications. They are the ones who voted through the legislation at Westminster that gives councils the option to change the way they run themselves. But yet they protest when their own local council takes the opportunity. They clearly have no genuine commitment to localism when this conflicts with their own narrow party interest.”
21st March 2012