A motion proposing investigating the scrapping of the council’s cabinet-style executive has been passed – paving the way for a return to a committee system.
The development follows widespread concern about the way decisions are being taken by the Tory leadership, which many say is secretive and does not take into account the views of other councillors and the public.
At a meeting of the full council on Thursday, a motion to investigate re-introducing the committee system of governance was voted through, setting the ball rolling for a major overhaul of the way the council is run.
It was tabled by Tory councillors Simon Cook and Neil Baker, but the meeting also heard from Canterbury Society chairman Jan Pahl, who spoke on behalf of the Campaign for Democracy in the Canterbury District (CDCD). She said:
“We welcome the motion as we consider the current executive system of decision-making concentrates power in too few hands and is not properly representative. One problem with the current system is that many people, and some councillors, feel they cannot influence decisions the council makes.
Many people have been struck by the fact the council received about 5,000 comments on the draft Local Plan, but most of them appear to have been ignored in the most recent version. A committee system would give more councillors an opportunity to be involved in decision-making and would be more democratic, open and inclusive.”
She said the CDCD was also collecting signatures for a petition, aiming to reach 5,000 – which would trigger a referendum at the 2015 local elections.
Council leader John Gilbey, who has previously said he believes the old committee system is cumbersome and delays decision-making, said he welcomed a debate on future governance and would support the motion. But he also warned members to “be careful what you wish for”.
The process involves changing the constitution of the council. If a committee system was the recommendation of the political management member panel, it would not be ratified until the annual meeting of the council in May 2015.