how councils are run – and who runs them

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How councils are run – and who runs them. Cabinet Government Directly-elected mayors Committee system (only for councils with fewer than 85,000 residents) (Local Government Act 2000). Why change?. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


  • How councils are run and who runs them

    Cabinet GovernmentDirectly-elected mayorsCommittee system (only for councils with fewer than 85,000 residents)

    (Local Government Act 2000)

  • Why change?Opague and unclear decision-taking weakens the link between the people and their democratically-elected representatives.

    John Prescott, Deputy Prime Minister, 2000

  • Why change ii?Greater clarity over who does what role of decision-makers better understood


    Greater accountabilityImproved efficiencyAntidote to voter apathy - more engagement/interest of public

  • Cabinet GovernmentCouncil cabinets are:

    Made up of councillors and are the key political decision-making bodyLed by majority political party or ruling coalition, headed by leader of the councilMade up of up to ten leading councillorsWithin cabinet, individual councillors responsible for services (portfolio holder or executive member)Need not reflect overall political balance of councilCabinet decisions can be collective or individual

  • Cabinet powersSets councils over-arching policy framework

    Takes all the significant/key decisions on policy/services

    Determines spending priorities and recommends budgets

    Publishes Forward Plan document setting broad details of decisions coming up in next three months

  • CabinetsBut:

    Full council (ie all councillors) must set budget and council tax levelsFull council must agree decisions which represent departure from agreed policy framework

  • CabinetsCan delegate limited powers to area committeesMust meet in public for key decisions (but can meet in private, too)Have partnerships with other bodies

  • Cabinet plusesMore efficientImproved accountabilityLines of responsibility clearerIn other words - public know who is doing what where the buck stops

  • Cabinet minusesBackbenchers sidelined - not part of decision-making processDecisions taken by small one-party cabals less democratic?Potential for views of local community to be ignoredLack of accountability decisions by individualsChecks and balances weak

  • Scrutiny the checks & balancesAll councils (under LGA 2000) have all-party scrutiny committees:

    These have powers to:

    Call in cabinet decisionsSummon councillors, officers and others to explain/answer questions about decisions/policyRequest review of cabinet decisions (refer back)Carry out independent investigations & make reports on any aspect of council business and any issue affecting local authority eg health, transport, drugs, policing

    Cannot overturn cabinet decisions only make recommendations

  • NHS Scrutiny CommitteesEach council area must have an NHS Scrutiny Committee. Can review any aspect of health care affecting its area, eg hospital closures; health scandalsIn two-tier areas, this will have representatives of county council & district council, plus lay representatives

  • Scrutiny committees - minusesHave influence but not power cannot overturn decisionsRefer back process comes after decisions madeCan become political (eg may be chaired by majority party; meetings used to score points)Can slow down decision-making process also a plusLack political/back-up support; easily ignored by executive/cabinet

  • Scrutiny the plusesAlthough limited, decision makers can be called to account in publicRecommendations can influence and sometimes change council policyAbility to examine issues outside direct remit of council

  • Directly-elected mayorsCouncils led by single political leader after an election with wide-ranging powers to run the authorityBefore a mayoral election, voters must first show support for idea in public referendumVoters can call for referendum (must be 5% of electorate)Simple majority determines referendumIn election, electors vote for 1st and 2nd preference candidate

  • More elected mayors?Govt. wants 11 cities to consider mayors Referendum to take place in MayIf yes elections for mayors to take place in November Super ThursdayInclude: Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol, Bradford, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds Newcastle

  • Why?"Elected mayors provide cities with the strong, visible leadership that can help them prosper nationally and internationally This is an opportunity for each city to transform itself for the better. Cities minister Greg Clark"The world's great cities have mayors who lead for their city on the national and international stage, attracting investment and jobs. We believe that mayors can help English cities achieve their full potential too."

  • From football mascot HAngus The Monkey to respectable mayor Stuart Dummond, elected mayor of Hartlepool three times and once voted Best Mayor In The World

  • Mayoral elections2001 - First voter-initiated election for mayor Berwick on Tweed, 2001 with 64% turnout2002 11 elections; 5 won by independents (inc. Ray Mallon ex-policeman in Middlesborough; Stuart Drummond, Hartlepool; Dorothy Thornhill, former teacher; Watford)Turnout mixed 40% to 19%2005-06: Several re-elected

  • Mayoral elections 2009Three elections took place in June:Doncaster: Won by English Democrats candidate Peter Davies from LabourHartlepool: Stuart Drummond won third term (with UKIP and BNP candidates beating Conservatives and Lib Dem candidates)North Tyneside: Won by Conservative Lynda Arkley

  • Directly-elected mayorsAppoint their own cabinet from other councillorsOther councillors have backbench and scrutiny roleElected for four-year cycleCandidates need not be from political parties

    Also option under LGA 2000 for directly-elected mayor + council manager not common

  • Mayors the plusesCan build profile/re-invigorate areaCandidates can come from outside mainstream politics independent/mavericks with no party allegianceCan encourage greater public interestSpeedy decision makingAccountability people know whos in chargeStrong community leadership (eg Ray Mallon)

  • Mayors the minusesScope for abuse of power/corruption/pursuing vested interestsGreater potential for maverick candidates could to bring local government into disreputePotential for more decisions to be taken behind closed doors rather than at open meetingsBackbench councillors may feel alienated or sidelined (similar problem to cabinet)Too much power vested in one individual

  • How elections work

    Voters have two votes first and second preference

    If candidate has more than 50% of votes in first count, they are elected

    If no candidate has more than 50% of the vote, all candidates apart from those in the first and second place are eliminated.

    The votes showing a first preference for one of the eliminated candidates are checked for their second preference.

    Any second preference votes for the two remaining candidates are then added to their first preference votes and the candidate with the most votes wins.

  • Alternative arrangements another option Councils with populations of less than 85,000 can opt for a modified committee system under the LGA 2000

    Policy and decisions on services/funding taken by all-party committees (proportionate to overall political make-up) rather than cabinet (eg housing; transport, regeneration, environment +waste etc)

    Where introduced, councils must also have scrutiny committees (as under cabinet/mayoral model)

    Councils usually have a Policy and Resources Committee, chaired by council leader this will take all the important decisions

  • Cabinets open or shut and our right to knowCabinet meetings must be open to press and public:

    For all key decisionsFor discussions on key decisionsOptional for other non key decisions

    Where meetings are open:

    Press and public entitled to agendas and reports five working days before meetingUrgent items (those not on agenda) only allowed if relevant scrutiny committee chairman agrees

  • Cabinet meetings open or shut?Closed(Local Govt. Act Access To Information)Decisions which are not keyFor early collective discussions to narrow options under debateFor political debate without officersFor cabinet members to clarify matters with officersDecisions involving exempt or confidential information

  • What is a key decision?A key decision (under Local Government Act 2000) is one likely:

    To result in authority spending or saving a significant sum of money

    Is significant in terms of its effects on communities living or working in two or more wards

    It is for each council to define what it is significant usually through financial thresholds!