I have been a councillor both under the committee system and the present one.
The committee system actually involved fewer meetings than the present one. Thus it was more rather than less efficient. It also ensured that all councillors were able to participate in decision making and debates in committees were much more open and consensual. We still have a few decision making committees such as development control which operate efficiently, democratically and generally in a non-partisan manner. So there is no doubt a committee system can work.
However, I am very concerned that, given the public concern about the democratic deficit of the present system, the council should be left to decide how it is to be replaced. It is a bit like letting Westminster politicians police their expenses or the police investigate their own shortcomings. If the council is to replace the present system of governance with one that is acceptable to the people of our district then it is surely for the people to decide, not for a subset of councillors to do so.
So by all means let us replace the system but what replaces it should be determined by the democratic wish of the people of the district, not a political management working group meeting in secret session and dominated by the very people who have supported what we have at the moment.
The Campaign for Democracy in Canterbury District, if it obtains the signatures it needs, should then have the democratic mandate to decide what structure should replace the present one. This can doubtless be done in consultation with the Local Government Association and councillors and officers of the city council. But in the end, if the local concern is about democratic accountability and the system of governance, then letting councillors decide the nature of the replacement is scarcely likely to solve the problem.
I have my own ideas. Other councillors doubtless have theirs. What is important is to listen to, and adopt, what the CDCD want. That is the route, as I see it, towards restoring a trusting relationship between councillors and citizens.