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Home   Canterbury   News   Article

Conservative Canterbury city councillors Neil Baker and Simon Cook rebel against leader John Gilbey to call for return to committees structure

21 March 2014
by Lowri Stafford

Two Conservative Canterbury city councillors have rebelled against their leader to call for an overhaul of the way the district is run.

Tories Cllr Neil Baker and Cllr Simon Cook have put forward a proposal to scrap the current leader and executive model in favour of the committee structure abolished in 2002.

The bid is likely to anger council leader John Gilbey, who thinks the executive system should remain.

Leader Cllr John Gilbey speaking at a council meeting

Leader Cllr John Gilbey speaking at a council meeting

The motion, which will be debated at the next full council meeting at the Guildhall on Thursday, April 24, says: "This council believes that a committee system is appropriate for its governance in the future and asks the political management member panel to consider the issue at the earliest opportunity.

"If the panel endorses this view when it reports to council it should suggest an outline committee structure."

The current leader and executive system has been criticised for concentrating decision-making powers in the hands of just 10 members.

Supporters of the committee structure say it would enable all councillors to be involved in making decisions.

Canterbury Conservative councillor Simon Cook

Canterbury Conservative councillor Simon Cook

Cllr Cook, who represents North Nailbourne, says: "I believe that moving to a committee system would allow the city council to increase member involvement and transparency in decision making.

"Putting this proposal forward now means that, if the city council votes in favour, and the Political Management Member Panel endorses it, the new system should be in place for the council that is elected in 2015.”

Cllr Baker, who is the ward member for Tankerton, adds: “I am hoping there will be cross-party support for this motion. If councillors don’t agree to bring in committees after the May 2015 election, taxpayer money will have to be wasted on a referendum which will produce the same result.

"Myself and Simon both believe scrapping the Executive system and moving to a council run by committees is for the best, so let’s just do it."

Cllr Neil Baker wants a return to the committee structure

Cllr Neil Baker wants a return to the committee structure

The pair say the Boundary Commission's plan to reduce the city council from 50 to 39 councillors makes a change of system even more important.

They add: "We need to ensure councillors who have to represent more people than before are better placed to voice their views inside the chamber. We believe a committee system will do that.”

Meanwhile, a group of campaigners called the Campaign for Democracy in the Canterbury District have organised their own petition calling for a return to the committee system.

If 5% of the electorate - which amounts to about 5,600 people - sign it before the end of the year, a referendum will be held.

Members of the Campaign for Democracy in the Canterbury District have organised their own petition

Members of the Campaign for Democracy in the Canterbury District have organised their own petition

The group wants to hold the vote at the same time as the general election next year, which would prevent the council from having to spend an estimated £100,000 arranging it.

Earlier this week, Cllr Gilbey axed his own plans to hold an independent commission to explore changing the authority's governance system.

He said the inquiry would have given everyone the opportunity to vote for what structure they wanted in a referendum next year, but he failed to win support for the idea from the Liberal Democrat group.

He said: "Council decisions will always be made by the party with the majority of seats, whatever the governance system.

"Decisions with the executive system are better-made, without politics and at appropriate speed and I therefore believe that we should be very wary of a return to the politically-charged committee system."

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