Friday, 3 June 2011

Cabinet - the pros and cons

I see another letter in the Echo today suggesting that the root of all evil is the cabinet system. I do not recognise the name of the writer and I suspect that, like many of the recent critics of the system, he has not had the pleasure of serving as an elected councillor. I have been a member, committee chair and opposition member under the committee system as well as a member, cabinet member and leader under the cabinet system so feel that I am well positioned to express an opinion. Firstly it is important to remember that the cabinet system was effectively imposed by the last Labour government and at present, other than an elected Mayor, there is no alternative - although we are promised change. The reality is that the differences between the systems, particularly as operated in Southend, are minimal.Our cabinet members have no executive powers and all cabinet decisions are subject to ratification by full council. Accordingly there is an opportunity to block or change decisions if a majority of members wish to do so. Under the committee system the committee chairs would replace the cabinet and would discuss and work up policy before presenting proposals on those items requiring specific decision to a committee. The aspirations and plans of the administration would remain un altered and the overiding power of the council as a collective body would remain as at present.The ability of individual members to influence policy would remain the same and is effectively undertaken by negotiation and discussion as policies are worked up and proceed through the system rather than necessarily and inevitably in formal meetings. I am also entertained by suggestions that the council has been ill served by the cabinet system. I invite anyone to look at performance across all service areas, relying on external inspection reports, peer inspection reports and performance against targets to justify such a bizarre suggestion.

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