Draft Local Government (Organisation and Standards) Bill Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence - First Report


Memorandum by Eden District Council

  The Council has given extensive consideration to the White Paper, "Modern Local Government: In Touch With The People", which you launched in July of this year. Members have considered the contents both through the medium of seminars and the Council's Committees and, whilst there is considerable debate on the issues contained within the White Paper, there is one particular issue which concerns the Council and which they would like you to consider further.

  This Council is formed of 37 Members, 31 of whom are Independents elected as such at a time when there was no Independent Group on the Council, two Labour Members and four of whom are Liberal Democrats. In 1997 the Independent Members formed a Group comprising 28 of the Independent Members. Though they have formed that Group, they are adamant about the retention of their independence. Although they have appointed a Leader/Secretary for the purpose of the Local Government and Housing Act, they do not have a Leader for political purposes nor do they meet as a Group prior to Committees or to take Group decisions on the policies of the Council. Decisions are made in open debate with an equal opportunity for all Members to contribute. This equality of opportunity is important because the White Paper requires all Councils to review their internal decision making structures and in conducting that review only three options are given for reform, a Cabinet, a Cabinet with a Leader, and an elected Mayor with a Council Manager, each of which precludes every Member from having that equality of opportunity.

  These three options which are intended to introduce more transparency in Local Government decisions are in fact restrictive of the transparency with which decisions are currently made at Eden.

  My Council would wish to ask you which of the three options you feel would be appropriate for a Council comprised of Independents and would ask that in formulating legislation on this issue you give discretion to Councils to choose a decision making structure most suited to their needs.

5 November 1998

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