Memorandum by North Tyneside Council (LAG
North Tyneside Council introduced new decision-making
arrangements on a pilot basis in October 1998 in response to the
government's proposals for the modernisation of local authority
political management structures as set out in the white paper
"Modern local governmentin touch with the People."
In introducing the pilot we recognised that
this would be a dynamic process which would need to change and
evolve as we gained experience.
The main characteristics of North Tyneside's
current governance arrangements are:
a majority group Cabinet of 10 members
(including the leader and deputy leader of the Council) with responsibility
for policy formulation, making recommendations to an all purpose
Policy and Resources Committee;
individual Cabinet Lead Member portfolios
covering key cross-cutting policy themes; (Lifelong Learning,
Community, e-Society, Regeneration and Social Inclusion, Health,
Safer Communities, Housing, Organisational Capacity).
reference groups of three members
from the majority group supporting each Lead Member in policy
development and review;
an Overview and Scrutiny committee
and six select committees shadowing each of the principal Cabinet
portfolios (Life Long Learning, Regeneration and Social Inclusion,
Environment and Transport, Safer Communities, Health and Organisational
Capacity). Their role is primarily that of reviewing implementation
of policy and service delivery in the context of driving forward
a Standards Committee which is in
the process of being reviewed in light of recent DETR guidance;
a move towards "themed"
a North Tyneside Partnership Board
and Policy Partnership Boards for the five key policy themes;
further development of community
involvement on a geographical area basis and on particular themes.
See Appendix 1 for a diagrammatic representation
of the changes.
These changes are a further development to the
radical organisational and structural changes which were introduced
in North Tyneside in 1992. These created an innovative corporate
management structure of six (now five) Executive Directors, each
of whom has lead responsibility for designated policy areas, strategic
issues, community roles and performance management. There is no
Chief Executive. Day-to-day service management is organised on
the basis of a number of Functions based on service clusters such
as Children's Services, Care in the Community, which bring together
a range of services in ways which make sense to residents.
Taken together, the changes introduced in 1992
and the more recent changes to the Council's governance arrangements
reflect our commitment to developing responsive and accountable
structures for decision-making and community leadership.
The changes to the decision-making structure
arrangements introduced in 1998 were subject to an interim independent
review by the Local Government Centre at Warwick Business School,
at the University of Warwick in May 1999. A further final review
took place at the end of 1999.
Our response to the Select Committee is based
on their independent assessment of the changes and further evaluation
work that has subsequently taken place within the authority. We
have framed our response to the Select Committee under the headings
set out in the press notice dated 30 November 2000:
Preliminary views on whether changes
in political management structures are likely to contribute to
greater efficiency, transparency and accountability;
The impact of the new arrangements
on (a) the role of councillors, (b) the role of local authority
officers and (c) the Local Electorate;
Local Authority experience of setting
up Overview and Scrutiny Committees, the role of area committees
or other devolved arrangements;
Difficulties authorities have experienced
in implementing the provisions of the Local Government Act 2000
Part II and the views on the adequacy of the guidance and how
it might be improved;
The extent to which local authorities
are opting for the directly elected mayor model and the advantages
and disadvantages of such a model.
Preliminary views on whether changes in political
management structures are likely to contribute to greater efficiency,
transparency and accountability
It seems clear that the changes in political
management structures made available by the Local Government Act
2000 should contribute to greater efficiency, transparency and
accountability if they are introduced with a commitment to do
so by local authorities.
Increased community involvement in decision
making will inevitably create tensions. We need to develop confidence
that organisations and groups will all have a place in future
decision making arrangements. There is a place for everyone.
The impact of the new arrangements:
(a) On the role of councillors
In North Tyneside the introduction of a Cabinet
has, according to the Warwick research, led to a tighter decision
focus and an enhanced ability to deal with cross-cutting issues.
The executive members welcome the improved contact with officers
which the new arrangements have brought about.
The introduction of the Cabinet and Lead Member
responsibilities, together with the introduction of reference
groups, has led to issues of the time demand on executive councillors.
The Cabinet model has also led to concerns about
limited information and communication about Cabinet proceedings
and a perception of distance from non-executive members. As it
is a single party Cabinet these views are shared by opposition
members. Opposition members do though recognise that Cabinet is
a good, business-like way of working.
Because of these feelings of exclusion there
is evidence that non-executive members of all parties have sought
to extend the role of select committees into the area of policy
development which was not their original remit. In this regard
the recent DETR guidance on the extended role of Overview and
Scrutiny in relation to policy development and support is to be
welcomed. As the council develops its new constitution it will
be seeking to maximise the opportunities for all members to contribute
to policy in the belief that by doing so this will lead to a more
inclusive and effective council.
The council has set up a partnership board with
leaders from the community, business world and local colleges.
This body, North Tyneside Partnership Board has recently become
North Tyneside's Local Strategic Partnership (LSP). It is supported
by five other partnership boards which reflect the key policy
themes of the authority. These partnership boards are based on
the belief that inclusion is important. They enable stakeholders
to be brought more directly into the Council's decision-making
Taken together the partnership boards have enabled
members to exercise their community leadership role on issues
of shared concern with external partner agencies.
(b) On the role of local authority officers
The change of political management structures
are reflected in change of officer support arrangements. These
include a separation of staff supporting executive members from
those supporting overview and scrutiny. On one side there has
been the creation of a Cabinet office, and on the other, members
involved in overview and scrutiny functions are supported by a
separate staff grouping of Best Value, Research and Scrutiny staff.
Quasi-judicial and representational roles also have dedicated
For officers outside of the centre, it must
be acknowledged that understanding of the new roles and relationships
between officers and members has been difficult, with some concerns
about the clarity of routes for formal decision-making. Training
for officers on the new code of conduct and the Council's revised
constitution is planned later in the year.
(c) On the Local Electorate
The Council has, through "themed"
council meetings and the adoption of question time at councils
from the public, tried to become more open in its workings and
has also sought to involve community representatives in the work
on partnership boards. It acknowledges though that further work
on the community involvement front is needed as it moves forward
in developing and implementing its new constitution.
In relation to Partnership Board working the
Council has encountered some difficulties faced by smaller community
and voluntary partners in keeping up with the paperwork of partnership
working. Whilst there has been considerable appreciation of the
greater openness of Partnership Boards in comparison with the
previous committee structure, reflected in the Partnership Boards'
willingness to engage directly with groups of residents such as
young people, this appreciation of openness was combined with
some concerns about the democratic accountability of Partnership
Boards and the limited accessibility of the new structures to
community representatives. This is something that the council
needs to address as part of its development of the new constitution.
The North Tyneside Partnership Board has recently been agreed
as our Local Strategic Partnership (LSP). It has embraced the
opportunity of providing leadership in further developing our
local community strategy. A major "visioning" event
to start this process is planned later in the year.
Local Authority experience of setting up Overview
and Scrutiny Committees, the role of area committees or other
The Warwick research, which was a snapshot in
time, identified mixed messages about select committees. Whilst
they have made an active start towards more rigorous scrutiny,
some members and officers feel that they have sometimes been over-zealous
in their approaches with a greater need for a learning and problem
solving approach to scrutiny being adopted. Since the Warwick
report the Council has begun to address these issues.
There have also been concerns about role clarity
for select committees which will be addressed as part of the development
of the new constitution in that, to a certain extent, select committees
have begun to adopt a policy development role which was not part
of their original remit. This may reflect the concerns about exclusion
for non-executive members and their wish to use select committees
as a role for the way of influencing wider developments within
In terms of training needs, whilst training
has been provided for members on overview and scrutiny, it is
recognised that further work could be done to create the right
tone and approach for working in this area with which members
were previously unfamiliar. More positively, many members feel
that select committees have enabled them to "get around more"
and discuss key issues with officers, something which has been
In relation to scrutiny, of particular note
was the successful select committee report on mental health services
in North Tyneside. This select committee has built on North Tyneside's
earlier Health Issues committee and will continue to play an important
part in enabling the Council to exercise its NHS scrutiny role
under the NHS Plan.
As part of the development of its new constitution
the Council is committed to extending the membership of select
committees to include external experts to provide additional specialist
expertise where this is deemed to be of value.
In terms of area committees the local authority
has taken a very "bottom-up" approach in this area,
with a number of pilot exercises taking place in various localities
throughout the authority. It is, however, too soon to evaluate
their effectiveness, although they are seen as an important element
of future working within the authority within the new constitution.
Difficulties authorities have experienced in implementing
the provisions of the Local Government Act 2000 Part II and the
views on the adequacy of the guidance and how it might be improved
The council has set up an all-party Local Government
Act Task Group which is developing its new constitution. To-date
the Task Group has not encountered any particular difficulties
in developing its thoughts on drafting the new constitution for
North Tyneside Council. In fact, the guidance to date, and in
particular the draft modular constitution, has been very much
welcomed by the Task Group.
The extent to which local authorities are opting
for the directly elected mayor model and the advantages and disadvantages
of such a model
North Tyneside Council has not expressed a preference
for any particular model as it is in the process of undertaking
widespread consultation amongst residents and other interested
parties. It has, however, commissioned independent research on
the pros and cons of the three models to inform its consultation
exercises with the public in a non-biased way.