Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pickles To Allow Councils to Junk Cabinet System

One of the most unpopular local government reforms was the creation of the Cabinet system for local councils. But tonight many councillors up and down the country can jump for joy. In an interview with me for Total Politics - out tomorrow - Eric Pickles has said that he will allw councils to junk the system if they wish...

ID: The cabinet system in local authorities is very unpopular with a lot of people. If local authorities wanted to change that and go back to the committee system, what would your reaction be?

EP: Fine. We will be putting something into the local government bill to let them do that. I don’t care how things are organised. They can have it on the basis of a committee system, on a cabinet basis, on the mayoral system. If they want to introduce it on a choral system with various members of the council singing sea shanties I don’t mind, providing it’s accountable, transparent and open. That’s all I need to know.

Another sign that the coalition's localism agenda is being implemented.

The full interview will be published in the magazine tomorrow. I'll carry extracts next week on the blog.


bewick said...

Personally I think Pickles is a joke.
What he SHOULD do is remove the Americanisms which Blair introduced - elected mayors, cabinet government, PAID councillors - and return LG to what it once was or should have been. (Or should we now be introducing elected Sheriffs. Given time Blair would have done exactly that.)
That is people elected to represent their peers, promote beneficial,legal, and cost effective policies and ensure that officers do not run wild. And all from genuine altruistic motives without reward but also without financial penalty.
The OFFICERS are the experts in their respective fields - not the money grabbing politicians. Officers should dispense their professional advice but follow the political agenda when it is legal ( it is often not). Officers have the legal right to oppose illegal proposals. I've had to do that a number of times. Certainly marked me.

I speak from the position of someone who spent a career in Local Government reaching a very high level in a very major Authority.

I saw arse lickers promoted rather beyond their abilities because of their political affiliations. In MY career it was always essential to be apolitical. I still am in the main but I definitely saw the A-L's promoted beyond their abilities. Even at my then level it was often difficult to counter that. This started happening particularly in the late 80's and has blossomed since.
Yes you are right - this WAS a Labour authority although thankfully no longer. I have though to say that there were SOME, but only some, Labour Councillors who were totally honest and totally beyond reproach. THEY have, and always will, my total respect whatever their political affiliation.

Steve Tierney said...

You think cabinets are going to vote themselves out of existence? Somehow I doubt it.

Unsworth said...

The question here is whether those Councillors who have enjoyed being 'Cabinet Members' for a whole bunch of garbage functions will be willing to give up the 'status' and perks that they have accrued. I very much doubt it.

Pickles' principles of accountability etc are fine, but he'll need to police them rigorously. In my experience Local Authorities are just as much of a quagmire of vested interests as those at Westminster, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Stormont. These people will not give up power and control without fighting tooth and nail. There's too much at stake.

John M Ward said...

Steve and Unsworth are correct. It is the Cabinet members themselves who will be most strongly opposed to scrapping this frankly bad system of local government.

Fortunately they will be outnumbered by the rest of any Council, so perhaps when put to a vote the majority would be in favour of getting rid of the Cabinet.

I have made my position clear on this, and if I were still on the Council here I'd certainly vote for scrapping it!

bewick said...

@ steve tierney
You are absolutely right. They WILL hang on to the power and their stupid unearned renumeration - until an Act of Parliament wjich removes their powers and their pay. THAT is what Pickles needs to do and soon.
R U listening Eric?

Quodrox said...

Councils have to be pretty much forced to be more effective and the cabinet system was one of the few reforms that really helped this.

Jim Baxter said...

Junk Cabinet Syestem.

OK. That's at the top of all our concerns right now.

It's Iain's blog - as too many of us who are clearly deranged (no, really, I'm not trying to be snide this time) seem to feel we should acknowledge before going OT and asking why he isn't commenting on our own necessarily (because theirt ours) much more important obsessions, I mean, concerns.

My obsession is; when will we get a British PM who will tell the Americans to mind their own damned business (that's me being awfully polite - Hi Lady Finchley - dinner for two at the Savoy is still on me) and maybe apologise for some of their own 'errors'.

bewick said...

@ julius whacket
And you are? A councillor I'd guess. And I'd also guess that you have little if any experiemce Tell me I'm wrong.

Councils ARE effective, through their committees, when the Committee Chairman/woman is effective and the party has a clear goal. So so often this is not the case on either point. Chairs tend to be allocated on length of service and power within the party - which sometimes depends on bullying ability. It rarely has much to do with other abilities.

THE BEST Chairman I ever encountered was a largely uneducated bloke who pretty well always cut me short. His objective was to finish the meeting as quickly as possible so that he could retire to the Labour Club.
We got on like a house on fire. I respected him and he respected me. I knew where he was coming from and he respected my advice. When he recognised that I was right he rapidly advanced the decision.
If only they'd all been like that instead of posers obsessed with their own importance. Yeh reckon you can pretty much deduce that I have little respect for most councillors.

Unknown said...

Central government has no role in telling local councils how they conduct there business. Local councils are only accountable to the local population.

Johnny Norfolk said...

This is a move in the right direction. We want LOCAL government not something that is totaly controlled by the national government. So will he leave local planning to local people and stop appeals that go against the wishes of local people. Where there is a major issue the only appeal should be a local referendum.

Anonymous said...

@ steve tierney

You may be right (though as a cabinet member myself I am more relaxed on the issue).

However, if the wider Conservative group on a council wants rid of the system, then rid of it they shall be.