Memorandum by Liberal Democrat Group Leader,
Lichfield District Council (LGA 01)
Our small Liberal Democrat Group of two, like
to think that we do have some influence in the Lichfield District
Council, as the Conservatives only have an overall majority of
two. We support the ruling administration, when we feel that their
policies are sensible and generally we have been treated with
respect and well consulted during the process of introducing the
new system, which is a leader with cabinet. Generally, the system
seems to be working quite well, although we are still very much
feeling our way.
We have seven members of the cabinet, all of
the ruling group, Chairman, vice Chairman and five portfolio holders,
Leisure, Development, Community, Finance and Corporate services,
the latter are shadowed by four Overview and Scrutiny committees,
Finance and Corporate services being combined. Each O and S committee
have a Chairman (ruling party) and two vice Chairmen (one from
ruling party and one from the opposition parties). We have vice
Chairs on Development and Leisure, Labour on Corporate services
and Community. Labour may very well decide to take up our two
places after April, as apparently they have the priority.
All O and S Chairs and vice chairs meet together
to discuss future programmes, at which cabinet members are present.
Each O and S committee Chairs and vice Chairs then meet separately
to "fine tune" the agenda for their next O and S meeting.
We are experimenting in our Overview function in looking at policy
matters referred to us by the Cabinet before the Cabinet meets
and making recommendations to them. We have the right to refer
back Cabinet policy decisions to them, but only once. The final
decision, of course, is made by the full Council.
We have had two O and S committee meetings up
to now. The feeling is that party polarisation has been diminished
and more freedom and informality has been introduced. The Cabinet
portfolio holder usually attends, flanked by Officer advisors.
The portfolio holder is questioned by O and S members, who also
give their views and Officers also give short presentations of
explanation on very technical matters. So far, the feeling is
that the presence of the Cabinet member does not inhibit the performance
of members of the O and S committees, although doubts have been
expressed about this aspect.
An interesting feature of our Council is that
our Planning committee comprises all members of the Council. This
seems to work quite well. There are no site visits, although this
could change when we review the structure of the Planning department.
The public are not allowed to speak at any meetings
and we doubt whether our influence will change the status quo,
as both the main parties are not in favour, as they say it would
prolong meetings to an unmanageable extent.
Panels have been formed to give recommendations
to the cabinet on important matters, such as the Local Plan review.
The Planning committee also gives advice.