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Maidstone council to drop committee system

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Maidstone council has set out its plans to return to an executive style of governance from 2022.

It will mean an end to the committee system that the council currently operates.

Councillors vote on the motion at their meeting held in Mote Hall (51795121)
Councillors vote on the motion at their meeting held in Mote Hall (51795121)

When he was elected as Council Leader in May, on the back of elections that gave the Conservative group an overall majority, Cllr David Burton declared a return to an executive function was one of his key aims and won an "in principle " motion.

Now the details of change have been thrashed out by the democracy and general purposes committee, with a report presented to a full council meeting on Wednesday last week.

The new system will see the leader able to appoint an executive of up to nine members, and determine their policy roles.

There will be four policy advisory committees of nine back-bench councillors but chaired by an executive member to give advice ahead of any decisions being taken by the executive members

There will additionally be one overview and scrutiny committee (which is the minimum necessary required by law) with the power to challenge executive decisions after they have been made.

Council Leader David Burton (Con)
Council Leader David Burton (Con)

The committee will not have the power to reverse the decision themselves but will be able to ask the executive member to think again.

The proposals were drawn up by a cross-party working group, of which Cllr Clive English (Lib Dem) was a member. He said that although he would prefer a committee system, it had been clear last May that there was a majority in favour of an executive style of governance, and said that what they had come up with was better than the cabinet system the council had once operated in the past.

But he warned: "There is no such thing as a perfect system."

Cllr Paul Harper (Lab) opposed the change, saying the committee style had worked well for years, and he asked, if it's not broken, why fix it?

Cllr Michelle Hastie was strongly opposed, declaring the new system "undemocratic." She said it would effectively give all the decision-making ability to the council leader.

Cllr Michelle Hastie (Lib Dem): opposed
Cllr Michelle Hastie (Lib Dem): opposed

But Cllr Gary Cooke (Con) was in favour, saying it would provide a greater efficiency in decision making.

The change was passed by 33 votes to 16.

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