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Council reverts to old-style committee for decision-making

New system to engage public on their opiniona

The city council has forñiâlly agreed to introduce a new system of local government. At a meeting at the Guildhall last Thursday, councillors voted unanimously to ditch the executive structure and replace it with an old-style committee system. The move follows pressure put on the council over the way it tried to railroad through unpopular policies such as the West-gate Towers traffic scheme and the sell-off Kingsmead Field. The Campaign for Democracy in the Canterbury District (CDCD) spearheaded the drive to change the system. Member Sue Langdown said:

“We believe this a workable system of governance which will benefit both council and public. We shall watch with interest the progress of the new system, particularly how well it is matching up to the design principles and expectations of the public.”

The council formed a governance commission chaired by former city council chief executive Chris Gay. It proposed replacing the executive system, where a group of 10 coundillors of the same party take most of the important decisions, with committees. These would reflect the political make-up of the council. Mrs Langdown added:

Sue Langdown from CDCD helped spearhead the change
Sue Langdown from CDCD helped spearhead the change

“Meetings of the commission were open to the public, who were given every opportunity to submit written suggestions and participate in discussions. This openness was much- appreciated and sewed to show just what can be achieved when the council and local people set out to work together.”

CDCD is urging the council to consider five additional points as part of its governance shake-up. It wants the role of the area member panels to be expanded. a review of roles of parish councils, co-opting members of the public on to working parties and panels, redrawing the way consultations are carried out and encouraging committees to be more flexible with the time allowed for public speakers. The council will introduce the system following the local elections in May when the number of councillors will have dropped from 50 to 39. It will also carry out a review of the system after a year. Cllr Neil Baker said:

Cllr Neil Baker happy to see more public involvement
Cllr Neil Baker happy to see more public involvement

“There’s a difference between consultation and genuine two-way engagement. Councillors do not have a monopoly on good ideas. The more we can involve members of the public, the more they can feel like they own our policies.”

Herne Bay Gazette, December 4th 2014

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