Fury over recent ‘undemocratic’ decisions
CAMPAIGNERS are determined to make the district more democratic after a storm of protest over the latest council decisions. Members of community groups across the city had already joined together to organ ise an open meeting next week to discuss how they can change the way the council is run. But after council leader John Gilbey and the ruling executive ignored a unanimous recommendation to support the registration of Kingsmead Field as a village green, organisers said that their campaign to change matters was more urgent than ever. Council officials are planning to set up their own commission to examine ways the council could be run, with a review due to take place first. Richard Norman, from the Campaign for Democracy in Canterbury District, said:
“We shall be pressing ahead with our own campaign, but will be keeping a close watch on the new commission and we hope that by one route or another the district can arrive at a more democratic system.”
Opponents to the current executive system say it leaves too much power in the hands of too few councillors, meaning those not on the executive have no real influence over decisions. They are considering launching a petition, which if signed by 5 per cent of the electorate, (5,611 people), would lead to a referendum on changing to a committee system. Councillors have been invited to the meeting next Wednesday, and former Kent County Council chairman Richard King will present a summary of how the different systems work before a discussion and questions. The meeting will be at 7.30pm in the United Reformed Church Hall in Watling Street, Canterbury
What’s the difference?
UNDER the executive system, most decisions are made by an group of ten councillors, soon to be reduced to eight. A committee system, which the council had until it was forced to scrap under the Local Government Act of 2000, would mean important decisions would be made by the full council, on recommendations from committees dealing with the relevant policy areas. In the current system, the executive is composed entirely of members of one party, chosen by the leader, and decisions are rubberstamped by the full council, again with a majority of the ruling party. In a committee system, the committees would be made up of members of all political parties. The Localism Act allows councils to adopt a “modified” committee system, which would allow all councillors to be involved in decision-making. People would thus be in a better position to make their views known through their own councillor.
Herne Bay Times, January 30th 2014