Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by the Officers, Barnet London Borough (LAG 46)

  I refer to your press notice 69/1999-2000 inviting views from local authorities, particularly those who have experimented with new forms of political management for some time.

  Barnet Council introduced a Leader/Cabinet form of governance in November 1998, within the limitations imposed by legislation at that time. The arrangements were reviewed in November 1999 and are still operating.

  The system was studied by the Local Government Information Unit and is described in their special briefing No. 54 a copy of which is enclosed. This covers a number of areas the Committee wishes to examine.

  It took some time, probably a year, for the impact of the new arrangements to be understood fully. It is now common practice for local newspapers to refer to individual councillors as "the cabinet member for..." and to describe them as the person responsible for a particular Council service.

  A small group of leading members from the three political groups on the Council is currently working with officers on arrangements and recommendations to the Council to implement the requirements of the Local Government Act 2000. One of their recommendations will be to continue with the use of area forums. These have been a considerable success in enabling citizens to have their say about the work of the Council. A forum is held monthly in three areas of the borough with regular attendance of 50-60 members of the public at each.

  The scrutiny commissions in our current arrangements will become overview and scrutiny committees. They play a major role in the operation of the Council and their importance is recognised, with some far-reaching and beneficial investigations already undertaken. A particular current issue is strengthening support for this function.

  The DETR guidance and model has been useful to the officers who are drafting the constitution. This is a major piece of work with limited time available.

  The Council is about to start widespread consultation on the three governance models. The member group has been taking evidence from local interest and community groups who have all expressed support for the Leader/Cabinet model. This is the preferred model.

February 2001

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