Decision-making changes at Great Yarmouth Borough Council

View from the top of Havenbridge House.Town Hall.October 2015.Picture: James Bass

View from the top of Havenbridge House.Town Hall.October 2015.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

Borough councillors voted on Tuesday to change the way the council makes decisions, from a cabinet system to a committee system.

The current system of governance is the cabinet system, introduced after the Local Government Act 2000 imposed changes on local authorities that were designed to streamline and modernise their political structures.

Authorities at the time were given four options, to introduce a council elected leader and cabinet system, a publicly elected mayor and cabinet system, an elected mayor with an officer, or finally a modified committee system.

The most popular choice nationwide, and what was implemented in Great Yarmouth, was a council elected leader and cabinet system.

But now, councillors have voted to change this system in May 2016 to a modified committee system, after a cross-party working group was set up in January to produce a report on the pros and cons of changing.

Speaking against the change, Conservative council leader Graham Plant said that the committee system would be more expensive for ratepayers. He said: 'You have more meetings, which everyone must attend. And if you can't attend you're handing over to an officer and effectively putting decision making in officer's hands.

'I am acutely aware of the pending spending review, which isn't going to be good news for local government, and with this additional burden to tax payers of £500,000 over four years if we go to the committee system, front line services would have to be cut.'

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However, independent Cllr Adrian Myers said: 'At no time has it been said how much swapping to a committee system would cost, because it can be made to fit and adapted to a budget.'

Labour group leader Cllr Trevor Wainwright said: 'Up until May I was in favour of the cabinet system as an efficient way of working, but the cabinet system is only as good as leader of the cabinet.'

With fellow labour councillor Brian Walker saying that 'there are two prime examples of where this has gone wrong and decisions have been made without debate; the ice rink and the sacking of the previous CEO.

'These kind of things would not happen under a committee system,' he added.

A handful of councillors remembered serving under the old committee system, including conservative Charles Reynolds. Cllr Reynolds said: 'There can be arguments made that members have more input with a committee system but it is too expensive, and we need to be efficient in our actions.'

However Cllr Walker, who had also experienced the old committee system, countered this. He said: 'I wouldn't want the old committee system back, but this is a new system.'

The recorded vote saw members make the decision to swap to the committee system, with 21 members for the change and 14 against. Those voting for the change included the full Ukip group, who have traditionally voted with the Conservative party, but stand to gain a louder voice from the changes.

The new arrangements will be implemented at the council's annual general meeting in May 2016.