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As reflected upon in the previous debate, there are ways of enabling leadership. Leadership does not happen by accident, and part of the logic we are faced with in this part of the Bill is that of building visibility and accountability—building what the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, called the team—so that people know who is taking the decisions and why they have chosen their routes across the different services, or whatever. I obviously cannot agree with the amendment, although I understand the spirit in which it is moved. However, in all the ways in which we have set out the notion of strong and prosperous communities, we have always explained why we would change the status quo and

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seek to make it possible for the leader to appoint the other members of the executive. This is one of the three freedoms identified in the research that I spoke of earlier. It is to enhance the effectiveness, coherence and collectivity of the leadership that they will be visible across the local area and, in so doing, encourage better leadership.

I do not see how the provision is a disincentive for ward councillors. The aspiration to become part of leadership is there in any case. However, it also shows that it is possible to grow leadership in different ways. Another piece of evidence I would like to refer to is the conclusions of the report on the state of English cities, published in 2006. That evidence shows that entrepreneurial leadership is absolutely crucial to finding new economic futures for cities, businesses and residents. All that inclines us towards thinking that we must have a more predictable system which plays to and identifies strengths. Enabling the council leader to build a team is the right way to go.

I am afraid that I am unable to accept the noble Lord’s amendment. I hope that he will feel able to withdraw it.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market: Can the Minister clarify a point for me? My understanding of the current system is that it is perfectly possible for leaders to operate the system now proposed. They do not need this legislation to do it. A council currently has a choice between a model in which the cabinet is elected by the council and one where it is chosen by the leader. I make no judgments about the relative merits of those two systems; for me, the important thing is that the choice remains. We have a problem with the removal of that choice under the Bill.

Baroness Andrews: The noble Baroness is quite right. As I said, it is in the logic of the situation that we are trying to enable leadership to be stronger. We see this as part of that process.

Lord Greaves: I object to the continual assumption that those who do not agree with the Government’s polices and models are in favour of weak leadership.

Baroness Andrews: Let me correct that impression. I never said that, and I do not believe it. I simply have some different ideas about how to enable leadership, and maybe about the imperatives of the conditions facing local government and the nation. I certainly would not parody the noble Lord’s position by saying that he was in favour of weak leadership.

Lord Greaves: I am grateful for that. I was being provocative, but there is an assumption throughout that, when the Government say “strong leadership”, that is what matters, as though opponents are not in favour of good leadership. We ought to be talking about the nature of leadership, and the Government’s view is oversimplified, to put it fairly simply. We are talking not about strong or weak leadership, but about good and better leadership. If that is what the Government mean by strong leadership, they must understand that there are different ways of doing that. Different ways

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may be appropriate for different councils, different communities and so on. For the Labour Party, of all bodies, to appear to dismiss the concept of collective leadership is an astonishing ideological U-turn that I do not subscribe to. It is perfectly possible to have consensual leadership, co-operative leadership, collective leadership or collegiate leadership and for it to be very good leadership indeed. If it works really well, it is better than having leadership by one person. The noble Baroness talked about entrepreneurial leadership. I keep trying to avoid talking about Pendle, but a good example of entrepreneurial leadership is the council’s incredibly quick decisions to invest in new buildings in the middle of Nelson as a joint venture with a local company.

That must be my phone. I beg the Committee’s pardon. It must be somebody from Pendle ringing to say, “Come on, get on with it”. If I can find out how to operate this thing—this is hopeless; I should curl up and die. There, I’ve switched it off. I apologise.

I shall say two more things. I agree that leadership does not happen by accident, but nor does it happen by imposing structures. It happens by good people getting into leadership positions and working together to make the structure work. Any structure that is adopted will have advantages and disadvantages, yet it has to work. I fear that the structures that the Government are proposing will be quite brittle when things get to crisis point.

My second point relates specifically to this amendment. It is okay if there is a group in overall control and it appoints the leader, who is elected by the council. The leader will probably appoint the people who have been negotiating within the group by one means or other. That will work. In a council with no overall control, as is often the case, that approach does not work quite so well. Who is on the executive will be a matter of negotiation between two or more of the parties or groups on the council. That is underpinned by the numbers on the council and by who sticks their hands up to vote. If that decision is taken away and put in the hands of one person, particularly if that person will be there for four years, everything can break down fairly quickly and a series of crises might result, because the system is not resilient or flexible enough to cope. I ask the Government to look at that. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 115:

The noble Lord said: Am I on again? This is the first amendment in a long group about the proposed model for elected executives. This is an important issue in the Bill and will be a sticking point. There is considerable controversy about it. We are talking about it, yet I wonder whether it will happen very much. I wonder how many councils in the country will want to get involved in an elected executive model. I think I am on fairly safe ground in saying that there are not very many. From reading the interesting discussions in the House of Commons, we

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understand that a lot of this came from Stockton-on-Tees, which looked at the possibility in the 2000 Act to move to an elected executive and expressed an interest in it. It seems that it was given the advice that it was rather difficult and the Government had not thought it out, so the idea got stuck in this Bill to set out a perhaps more coherent, and certainly more comprehensive, model of how we might have an elected executive.

7.15 pm

Amendment No. 115 is one of a number of amendments I have tabled to try to remove all the references to elected executives from the Bill. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, who found even more references than I did and has helped to produce a thorough list of things that need filleting out of the Bill. No doubt there are others that we have missed. The principle is that we would like to remove the references to an elected executive being a model because it is, frankly, daft. We can talk about the details of the Bill, but this is a matter where we have to say that the proposal being put forward is simply silly.

What is it? It is a proposal that a group of people, a political party or any other group of people can put forward for election across an authority a slate consisting of a proposed leader and a number of other members of the executive. As I understand it, between three and 10 people would stand for election and, having been elected, would form the leader and executive of the council. I think they would be councillors, although I am not very certain because the Bill states that the Government may make regulations to what extent they will be councillors. Presumably they will be councillors and will be called Councillor Bloggs or Councillor Ali or whatever. They will be elected across the district, so they will not represent wards. They will have no direct link of the kind that the noble Baroness was talking about, which is the link between a councillor and the people who regard him as their councillor and go to him when they have a problem or something to say. We all think that is important in whatever electoral system we want.

Who wants it? It is rumoured that Stockton-on-Tees may want it, or perhaps one or two leadership people in Stockton may want it, but it is not clear who else does. According to the report on the Public Bill Committee in the House of Commons, when the witnesses from the LGA were giving evidence they were asked where the demand came from and who put it forward. It is reported that the witnesses looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. They did not know, so it does not seem to have come from representatives of local government.

What effect would it have on the council? It would have all sorts of effects. There would be two kinds of councillors, so the problems that we have in the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly with the additional member system would be repeated and would probably be much worse. The divisions that exist in many councils at the moment between executive and Cabinet councillors and back-benchers would inevitably be exacerbated because there would

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be councillors with no wards. It could unbalance the numbers—although the extent to which it would do that is not very clear—and produce a council that is not representative. If people voted differently or if there was a close vote under the supplementary vote system a slate could get in with perhaps only 35 per cent of the vote across the borough, whereas in individual ward elections quite different people might be elected because the votes would pile up in individual wards rather than being spread across the authority. There are all sorts of questions to be asked about electoral systems, and we will come on to them.

Finally, there is stand part on Clause 67. Clause 67, which is printed on pages 42 and 43 of the Bill, sets out in great detail how the executive will be elected. When the debates took place in the House of Commons, a number of people—my honourable friend Andrew Stunell was particularly prominent— pooh-poohed the idea that the size of the executive had to be fixed before the elections took place. The argument was that people might well have a choice of a small executive of three or four full-time people or a big executive of perhaps 10 people who would be part-time and would operate in a very different way, and that that choice could be put before the people.

The Government responded to that, and we now have the extraordinary stuff on pages 42 and 43 about the different kinds of election there might be. It is not that there will be a choice of the people standing, but that the council will decide whether it has to be a definite number of people, can be a number of people,


The whole system is a muddle and quite extraordinarily complex. Few people if any are going to take part in it—there might be two or three councils putting themselves forward as pioneers but my guess is that they will come scuttling back like Stoke-on-Trent, saying, “The Government got it wrong. Can it be unscrambled?”.

I hope this House might take these provisions out before the Bill goes back to the Commons, and ask the Government to seriously think again about what is an incredibly flawed proposal. We are not there yet—we are in Committee, discussing it in detail—and on that basis I look forward to the Minister’s reply and what she can possibly say to justify this extraordinary nonsense. I do not want to blame her for it, but she has to defend it. I look forward to the debate. On that basis, I beg to move.

Baroness Hanham: I have a number of amendments in this group and also support Amendment No. 115. I agree with the noble Lord; this is one of the most extraordinary proposals in the Bill. It is also extraordinarily inchoate. I start by drawing the Committee’s attention to the amendments that I have tabled. Rather magnanimously, Amendment No. 152 is an admission that if there were an elected executive, it ought to be able to increase in size if it needed to. The amendment would allow it to do so, though I hope, as the noble

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Lord, Lord Greaves, said, that by the time we get to the end of this Bill there will be neither sight nor sign of an elected executive.

Amendments Nos. 154 to 156 and Amendment No. 159 would all remove references to the elected executive and elected leader. Amendments Nos. 168 and 169 cancel out the references to an elected executive in new Section 40D. Clause 76 provides for supplementary provision for the dates of the years of the election of mayors and executive members, and the amendments would remove that as well.

The arguments against an elected executive are manifold. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has laid out a number of them. The questions that arise from this are also extensive. First, where in the world has a system such as this been used before? Secondly, how will this elected executive be supernumerary to the council? That is what it looks as if it will be under new Section 40C. Thirdly, how can councillors be elected to an elected executive if they have not been elected? Presumably the elected executives have to be elected at the same time as the elections. Do you stand as both an elected executive member and a councillor, or can you stand for just one? If, as I understand it, you stand as both a councillor and a member of the elected executive and you are then elected, do you have to then stand down as a councillor? If so, a by-election is caused.

Where on earth does this get us? It presupposes that there are insufficient people on the council suitable to be senior executives on that council. What does that say of the confidence that people have in their council and councillors? Why should local authorities be hoicking around trying to find people suitable to run education, housing or finance who cannot be found from within the council? That is what it amounts to. You will have to find specific people to adopt specific roles and then try to have them elected on a slate. What happens if you then want to extend that executive? As it is, you have to go with a certain number to have them elected. If anyone is subsequently appointed to the Cabinet, does that leave them as second-class citizens because they were not elected as a member of the executive?

It is the most extraordinary proposal I have seen. I have not seen any justification for it, nor have I heard through my local government networks any support for it whatever. Presumably the Government have ideas as to how this should work and what its value would be, yet it is hard to see what that is. My amendments try to ensure that it does not see the light of day.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market: I find myself in something of a quandary on this because I agree absolutely with the assessments of my noble friend Lord Greaves and the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, that this has to be one of the daftest proposals that has ever come forward. In the interests of consistency, having argued all the way through Committee for choice, part of me thinks that this should remain on the table so that any local authority daft enough at least has the option to choose it. Since we have been talking about leadership so much tonight, there is a question about the leadership of the Government. By

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putting this option into the Bill, with all its unworkable elements, I am not convinced that they are exercising their leadership responsibilities. They are tempting local authorities into choosing a model with all these inherent flaws.

I am mystified by the genesis of this option, too. My noble friend Lord Greaves referred to the allegation of Stockton-on-Tees being the birthplace of this. I am mystified as to why some chance remarks by one local authority have led to pages and pages in a Bill, whereas on the previous amendment we were discussing a model which is currently used quite well by 59 per cent of local authorities being thrown out by the Government. I fail to see the logic of the Government’s position on that.

I must confirm a couple of facts to check that have I understood this correctly. If the leader goes, does the entire slate then go too—so that everyone goes, whether the leader went under a bus or simply became ill or resigned? Does that also apply to each individual member of the slate? What happens if a member of the Cabinet is seen not to be performing well? Does the leader have the option of sacking and replacing them, or do we again have to have a fresh set of elections? Under this model, can members put themselves forward both as members of the slate and as ward councillors? If they are elected to take Cabinet office, will they automatically have to resign immediately from their ward council role, causing an immediate by-election? What is going to happen if, as a result of by-elections, there is a change of political control? These questions highlight just some of the potential flaws in the system.

7.30 pm

Baroness Andrews: I am in no doubt about where the noble Lords opposite stand on our proposals. Their position is rather unfair, and I am glad that the noble Baroness acknowledged this. Having berated us for being so draconian, they now tell us, when we come forward with the choice of three executive models, to take one away because of what has been said about it. I can best answer the questions that have been raised if I address the stand part debates, which will enable me to take the Committee briefly through the clauses themselves. Many of the amendments that have been brought forward in the filleting process that has been so expertly and jointly carried out by the parties opposite relate to the same issues and are consequential.

This is a new, innovative model. There are international precedents and we should not turn our backs on the experience of the directly elected executives in Switzerland and Portugal. Indeed, it was the Geneva council that inspired our interest in the model. Essentially, this is a new model, which has the potential to deliver visible and accountable leadership. It is very similar to the elected mayor model but powers are put in the hands of a slate. This is not a new concept in British politics; a slate reflects the notion of a team rather than an individual. In this model there is a complete separation of powers between the executive and front-line councillors, which will enhance the competence of the councils to

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challenge the executive. It will also do another job in representing the local community. So it is not as daft as it has been described.

Perhaps I may now address the stand part debates. Clause 67 amends the Local Government Act 2000 to provide for the new model. Clauses 69 and 71 are consequential to that and ensure that there are provisions in relation to executive members and the elections to the executive. How will that work? Clause 67 makes provision in relation to elected executives by inserting new Sections 40A to 40C into the 2000 Act. New Section 40A provides for the leader and other members of the elected executive to be elected by all local government electors in the authority’s area. It requires that elections for an elected executive take place on the same day as ordinary council elections, as for elected mayors. Yes, to answer the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, new Section 40A provides that members of the elected executive, once elected, are treated as members of the council for the purposes of enactments to be specified in regulations, subject to all the normal rules of qualification, disqualification and so on, just as with the elected mayors.

New Section 40B makes provision for the election of the slate. Anyone wishing to be a member of an elected executive—

Lord Greaves: Perhaps I may ask one question: will they be members of the council in terms of voting in the council? Will they sit in the council chamber and vote with the other councillors?

Baroness Andrews: Yes. They are full members of the council.

Baroness Hanham: As an interruption has taken place, perhaps I may ask a question. This slate of people could be put together by the ruling party when going up to the election, but presumably rate payers could put together a selection of people whom they would like to elect. You could end up with a leadership consisting of people who were completely away from the majority of the elected council.

Baroness Andrews: Yes.

Baroness Hanham: That makes it even barmier.

Baroness Andrews: But there is no reason why anyone should. It is unlikely. We are looking for local parties to put forward their own slates, of which there may be more than one.

New Section 40B makes provision that anyone wishing to become a member of an elected executive must be included in the list of persons who are seeking to be returned. The council can specify whether or not the elections for elected executives should be contested by proposed executives consisting of the same number of members or whether to allow the elections to be contested by proposed executives of different sizes. That is what the noble Lord was referring to in the table that specifies the different sizes. There is a minimum and a maximum size. In fact, the Local Government Act 2000 determined the maximum size as 10. But where a council specifies the minimum and maximum number for proposed elected executives, it will also be able to specify a minimum number below which the

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membership of the elected executive may not fall without triggering a by-election. I shall come on to what triggers a by-election in a moment.

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