Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by Sir Michael Lyons (LAG 30)

  Its main purpose is to indicate that I would be more than willing, if the Committee thought it would be of assistance, to appear before the Committee to give oral evidence on at least one of the specific topics identified in the Press Notice, namely the likely impact of new executive arrangements, under Part II of the Local Government Act 2000, on the role of local authority officers.

  By way of background, I should explain that—

    —  Birmingham City Council is the largest "all purpose" local authority in the UK.

    —  the City Council has been operating, since January 2000, an interim "New Constitution" which was designed to anticipate many of the changes which are now embodied in the 2000 Act. In particular, the interim arrangements incorporate (a) a Cabinet (although not as a formal decision making body), (b) a range of Scrutiny Committees, together with a Scrutiny Management Board and (c) a re-defined role for the full Council (including responsibility for approving the Council's "policy framework").

    —  towards the end of 1999, the City Council established a Democracy Commission comprising a mixture of City Councillors and independent persons and chaired by Sir Adrian Cadbury. The Commission undertook extensive consultation on various aspects of local governance and presented their final report to the City Council in mid 2000.

    —  whilst the Democracy Commission remained strictly neutral on the issue of whether Birmingham should have an Elected Mayor, one of their principal recommendations (based on the results of their consultation) to the City Council was that this issue should be put to the citizens of Birmingham by way of a referendum.

    —  in September 2000, the City Council effectively committed itself to holding a referendum (in accordance with the 2000 Act) on the Elected Mayor issue at a suitable date. Such a referendum is now likely to be held in September or October 2001.

    —  in anticipation of this, the City Council is currently engaged in the detailed design of two alternative Constitutions, which will serve as the "proposals" and the "fall back proposals" for the purposes of the referendum. The "proposals" will be based on an Elected Mayor/Cabinet model and the "fall back proposals" are likely to be based on a Leader/Cabinet model.

    —  one of the many issues now under consideration is the implications for the senior officer structure of the City Council. This consideration is informed by the fact that I have already agreed with the City Council that I shall be retiring from my present post at the end of September 2001.

Sir Michael Lyons

Chief Executive

January 2001

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