Norfolk County Council’s reputation is at risk of being damaged if an impasse over a move to a committee system has not been ended by May, the authority’s head of law has warned.

To send a link to this page to a friend, you must be logged in.

Victoria McNeill told councillors a failure to agree a workable committee system could result in every decision the council makes - hundreds every week - having to come before all 84 county councillors.

Members of Norfolk County Council voted in November, by 41 to 35, with two abstentions, for a proposal to move away from the current cabinet model in favour of a form of committee governance from May this year.

A cross party steering group of councillors was formed to consider the details of how the new arrangements will work, ahead of a vote on the final structure in April.

The steering group consists of two Labour councillors, two Conservative councillors, two Green councillors, two Liberal Democrat councillors, two UK Independence Party councillors and independent Richard Bird.

But the Conservatives - Cliff Jordan and Alison Thomas - walked out of a meeting last week, saying they would no longer participate in an “undemocratic process”.

The Conservatives had tabled their own proposals for a new committee system, which they said would give all members democratic participation and oversight on decisions.

But the Conservative proposal was defeated. UKIP councillor Paul Smyth, chairman of the steering group, used his casting vote to reject the proposal after it was tied at five votes for and five votes against, with one abstention.

The Conservatives attacked the representation on the steering group, arguing the split was not fair to a party with 40 members.

At a meeting of the full council today, Ms McNeill said she had sought further legal advice on what would happen if the committee structure is not agreed by May.

She warned: “The implications of not agreeing a system are pretty serious.”

She said the November council vote meant a committee system would start after May, whatever happened. If a workable system had not been voted into place, she said, then every decision would have to be voted on by all 84 members of the full council.

And she suggested central government might take a dim view of an authority, which it is already working closely with because of the problems in children’s services, being unable to come up with a system.

She said: “I take the view that the fact there must be a committee system from May, if you seem not to have a workable system in place, it would reflect very badly.”

Green group leader Richard Bearman said his group would be prepared to give up one of its places on the steering group if that resolved the problem while independent Richard Bird said he would stand down if that meant a solution could be found.

The move to a committee system was one of the key planks which led, following last May’s elections, to the formation of a Labour/Liberal Democrat administration, supported by the UK Independence Party.

16 comments

  • Pots and Kettles here Fifi -so busy wriggling around the issues-not enough attention spent on running the place efficiently and democratically. Too much effort going into covering your own backs instead of being upfront with the electorate. Just imagine how much work the officers are going to have to do - no one in charge at the moment except for a personnel officer (over-promoted at that) and a group of not very bright Cabinet members. Just get on with it and get rid of them and bring in a fairer committee system-I thought that officers were there to do the Council's bidding.

    Report this comment

    maryjane

    Monday, January 20, 2014

  • And no one should be standing down, the outcome of the May election was that the Conservatives lost overall control and could no longer continue to steamroller things through if all other parties opposed them. Get over it children.

    Report this comment

    Honest John

    Monday, January 20, 2014

  • Thank you Old Hand,roll on that day. The capabilities of all Councillors need to be transparent, I think the days of hiding behind a group decision (made by an inner clique) need to end.Independent minds are essential to the future of local authorities.

    Report this comment

    bedoomed

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

  • Don't you just get sick of these people?

    Report this comment

    Vic Sponge

    Monday, January 20, 2014

  • Bedoomed, the proportional system of allocating places is a legal requirement and can only be overridden if the whole Council agree to that unanimously. The Conservatives have 40 of the 84 County Council seats and also had the largest Norfolk-wide share of the votes.

    Report this comment

    Old Hand

    Monday, January 20, 2014

  • chucking the toys out of the pram because they didn't get there own way comes to mind

    Report this comment

    mickthedig

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

  • Norfolk County Council’s reputation is at risk of being damaged! Nobbs is once again to blame by putting it off since he was elected Leader. I suggest central government already take a dim view of this authority, and quite right too, so don't come crawling out from beneath your stone and try placing blame on this just because you can see the writing on the wall.

    Report this comment

    Honest John

    Monday, January 20, 2014

  • I spoke to a former Tory prospective county councillor and made my feelings clear that I thought this lot were corrupt and had little or no interest in working for the general pubic, his reply was "yes this certainly is the case, but it's not as bas as some countries". Make of that what you will?

    Report this comment

    Vic Sponge

    Monday, January 20, 2014

  • " reputation is at risk of being damaged " Now Dan Grimmer, most people I know think that the County Council is a joke. The debacle‎ over the incinerator being the major cause of contempt. But you know this already. Then there was the fiasco with the education department too...

    Report this comment

    nathanp

    Monday, January 20, 2014

  • What reputation. How can the Tories be upset and walk out? For years they have not let any other party have a say as they managed by cabinet, now when they lose control they still seem to think they have a right to be involved in decisions.

    Report this comment

    outsider

    Monday, January 20, 2014

  • How can it be damaged any further?

    Report this comment

    guella

    Monday, January 20, 2014

  • Ingo. How can, and why should, a party with two elected representatives, have the same authority as a party with 40? That really is democracy turned upside down! As Old Hand says, the Conservatives still have the largest share of the votes. I think the Conservatives should walk out every time and see what a mess the rest will make without them.

    Report this comment

    Andy T

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

  • The balance of Councillors on the steering committee seems fair to me,A move away from the proportional system of allocating places had to be done in view of the numbers of non Conservative Councillors, otherwise the Conservatives would try to rule the roost and steamroller their views through. Other Councillors views are needed now as well as theirs, and all 84 have had since May to put forward alternatives to Cabinet rule. Why would 84 Councillors making decisions be bad? The reality of how few Councillors made decisions since Cabinets were introduced in 2000 should shame believers in democracy.

    Report this comment

    bedoomed

    Monday, January 20, 2014

  • I see nothing wrong at all with a vote being taken of the whole Council everytime. Doesn't that happen at Westminster level? And perhaps they could write their votes down and then we will discover who is illiterate. You know who you are.

    Report this comment

    alecto

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

  • An 84 councillor committee, with three councillors not present, looking after elderly relatives, one on holiday, and two on the karzi? What a novel idea, all councillors making decisions again and having to bother... It is irresponsible and unprofessional by Cllr. Thomas and Cllr. Jordan to walk out. The Tory's were fine with taking part in the committee, they took the perks and sat around the table, only to walk out when it mattered and wreck the committee, after their own proposal was defeated. The personal animosity of party politicians, and I do know what happened to Mr. Smith, then still a Tory, in Gt. Yarmouth, should not have any place in council, but it does.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

  • When are the Tory Tots going to realise it is not their playground any more? Grow up and get over it. You did an awful job when you were mismanaging Norfolk and now you've got your comeuppance.

    Report this comment

    alecto

    Monday, January 20, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Norfolk Weather

Sunny

Sunny

max temp: 25°C

min temp: 18°C

Five-day forecast

loading...

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT