Tory John Gilbey’s decision to step down as the leader of the city council is an irrelevance to the future of the city. If the council genuinely embraces a cultural change in addition to its adoption of the committee system (An End To ‘Dictatorial’ Executive?, Herne Bay Gazette, November 13) then the role of the leader will be very different from what we have been used to. I remain unconvinced the committee system is of itself adequate to improve engagement between the council and residents and believe the governance commission could and should have done much more to prepare the ground for a revitalised and mare relevant council from May next year. Having attended some of the meetings, it seems every difficult decision has been deferred on the grounds this council cannot tie the hands of the council to be elected in May. Which is all very well, but in not adequately considering more radical options and in failing to set out the options and factors to be considered, this commission has left the incoming council and its officers with a monumental task simply in order to create a functioning administration between the date of the election and the date of the council’s annual general meeting.
Given the strong possibility of a very different political make-up from May, and the possibility of either no overall control or a two or-more-party coalition, this is a recipe for chaos. The commission’s own discussions demonstrated significant weaknesses in the proposed solution, which they chose to ignore with a bland statement that “we’ll get to review it after a year, anyway”, implying that a year of dysfunctional governance is entirely acceptable. Far from solving the problems of democratic deficit the net outcome is a situation which Is risky and badly thought out. The commission has failed to do anything more useful than draft what committees there should be and how many councillors should sit on each. Its decisions have been timid and inward looking. The possibilities, for example, to strengthen the role of the area members panels, to hold committees and even council meetings around the district, and the opportunity to improve engagement with civic societies and residents associations were never addressed.
A forward looking and vibrant Canterbury deserves much better than this. Too many oouncillors have been in place for too long, and that applies to many more than dr Gilbey. Let us hope that in May 2105, people take the chance to closely examine the options put before them, and select councillors who are genuinely committed to change.
Stodmarsh Road, Canterbury
Herne Bay Gazette, November 20th 2014