Friday, 18 October 2013

The true expense of the committee system

My favourite contribution of the night came from Indie Cllr Mike Assenheim who stood up towards the end of the All Up debate, commented that we could save over £100K by scrapping the cabinet system and promptly sat down again. It came at the end of the debate with no opportunity to challenge him but it is the sort of nonsense which we usually hear from his party leader. The basis of the argument is apparently that if we were to replace the cabinet with a committee system we would save the special allowances paid to the Leader, Deputy Leader and cabinet members. It really is quite annoying when a member who should know better stands up and spouts this type of hogwash which can only serve to confuse any proper or adult debate. Whether or not we should revert to a committee system is a different debate for another day although I would refer to my earlier blogs on the subject. However the relative costs are not in doubt.Under a committee system the Council would still need a Leader and Deputy Leader and on the basis that their role would be unchanged it is difficult to see that the Independent Panel would assess their allowances differently than as at present. I suspect that there would need to be at least the following committees: Policy & Resources, Highways & Transport, Planning and Economic development, Culture & events, Social Care, Children & Learning, Public Health, Housing, and Public protection & waste Each committee would need a Chair and Vice Chair and these would each be entitled to a special allowance. The Chairs would be expected to undertake the functions currently undertaken by the cabinet members and whilst there would be more of them the overall workload would be the same. If not, and assuming that members would undertake less functions, then we would be transferring power from members to officers in what I regard as a most unsatisfactory manner. All meetings would have to be in the evening to facilitate working members so there would be more longer evening meetings with the cost ramifications of additional committee support. The statutory committees such as DC and Licensing would be unchanged with no effect on the current allowances as would the allowances which are currently paid to the 3 opposition leaders. Whilst there may or may not be an argument in favour of committeees the reality is that the cost of the system and resulting allowances would if anything increase and to suggest a saving of £100K+ is not sustainable. As I say whether or not the committee system is better is a different issue but come on Cllr Assenheim admit that you comment was simply wrong and that if anything a return to committees would be more expensive.

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