At this week’s meeting of the Council, approval was voiced for a Motion calling for a radical transformation of the way its local government is organised.
We want to investigate the practicality of installing a hybrid model of governance for Kingston Council -- reinstalling the old committee system of democratic decision making, while maintaining the popular Neighbourhood structure and Members with Executive portfolios. We believe this will bring people back into the heart of the local democratic process.
In 2000 New Labour prescribed a strict system of governance on local authorities across the country: the ‘Executive model’ with an elected mayor and cabinet or leader and cabinet – restricting responsibility for policy making to just a few elected members.
The two parties in this chamber (Liberal Democrat and Conservative) strongly opposed the Executive approach at the time. And we were right to do so.
The current system encourages an adversarial mode of governance, locking out backbench councillors, local residents and simply provides for a greater opportunity for misunderstanding.
However, last month the new Communities Minister of the Coalition Government announced they would fulfilling a long term Liberal Democrat commitment to localism – and allowing councils to decide which system of governance was best for their authority.
We welcome the news and we will be writing our own report paper to Kingston’s Constitutional Working Group on a new organisational system which would allow councillors to debate local issues and to debate properly, with the genuine involvement of local people.