Cabinet governance model will not make Council more efficient

21 December 2016

The Conservative Administration at Mid Suffolk District Council are proposing a move to the Cabinet system of governance for the council. Green Party opposition councillors dispute their claims of “greater levels of openness, transparency and collaboration” and that such a system will make decision making more efficient.


Group leader Councillor Andrew Stringer said:

“Currently decisions are made either at the Executive Committee or at full Council. Because there is discussion and debate at the Executive Committee very few decisions are “called in” to the Scrutiny Committee, in fact none in the last five years. I have asked the Administration to show examples where the current system has caused delay, but no evidence has been provided.”

Councillor Rachel Eburne, Chair of the Council’s Scrutiny Committee explained:

“In the Cabinet system, the only way members outside the cabinet will be able to debate a decision will be by “calling it in” to Scrutiny. By doing this a decision is then put on hold while the Committee debates it – thus lengthening the time in which a decision is put into action. Decision making will be less efficient.”

“A Cabinet system involves no collaboration with other members of the council. Decisions are taken by cabinet members and there is no requirement to consult. In the current system there is discussion at the Executive Committee, which has opposition representation, before a decision is made. Members from different political parties all have a say and a democratic decision is reached. That democracy is why there have been so few call-ins.”

Councillor John Matthissen added:

“The Executive meetings are open for the public to attend – it is an important element of openness in decision making that our residents have access to committee papers and can witness democracy in action. There will be less openness and transparency as those councillors who are not in the Cabinet, of all parties, will have less opportunity to raise issues or concerns in public. A question can be asked at Cabinet but in the same way as a member of the public can ask a question. There may be no debate or discussion. Once made, this detrimental change of governance cannot be reversed without a public referendum for five years.”

Councillor Stringer concluded:

“The only reason such a system would be implemented is to permit fewer councillors to have more control and more say – to the detriment of all the other councillors and the public. No evidence has been presented to back up any of the claimed improvements. We fear to base such a momentous change on nothing more than platitudes, will end up taking more time and costing the tax payer more. As has been shown elsewhere in the country the cabinet system is not necessarily more open, transparent or effective. In most cases councils end up needing to have more and more scrutiny to make up the democratic deficit.”

The paper will be debated at Mid Suffolk District Council’s meeting on Thursday 22nd December.

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