Following the St Albans Liberal Democrats win in the local elections, plans have been made to restructure the council that will see it run in a more streamlined and democratic way.
The plans include replacing the single-part cabinet with four committees that represent Lib Dem priorities, adding more pre-decision scrutiny, and reducing the number of meetings.
Speed and scrutiny
Previously, key decisions were taken by a Cabinet of seven leading councillors, whereby policy could be voted through without having to take into consideration any comments, objections, or amendments from other councillors,
Cabinet decisions could only be scrutinised after the event and even then recommendations and outcomes were rarely taken on board. Despite the previous Labour government believing that a Cabinet structure would speed up the decision-making process, this was not always the case, with many decisions delayed.
Now, however, key policy decisions are now being taken by committees involving councillors from all parties. Scrutiny will take place before a decision has been made, not afterwards.
Under the new structure, four service committees have been established, replacing the single-part cabinet.
These different committees covering specific topics comprise councillors from all parties, with each made up in proportion to the number of councillors.
This enables committee members to gain specialist knowledge and expertise. Each committee is headed up by a chair and assisted by lead councillors, who will be consulted on decisions made by council staff.
The four committees – which reflect our administration's priorities – are:
The senior committee that manages the overall council budget, as well as the emerging Local Plan, the Climate Emergency and Covid recovery. Chaired by council leader Chris White with lead councillor Karen Young serving as vice chair.
Public realm committee
The public realm committee deals with the district’s parks and open spaces, as well as waste and parking. Chaired by Anthony Rowlands.
Housing & inclusion committee
The housing and inclusion committee deals with the issue of affordable and social housing, as well as ensuring that our society is one where everyone has a chance to participate. Chaired by Jacqui Taylor.
Regeneration & business committee
The regeneration & business committee deals with the need to regenerate the city centre (and other parts of the district), but also the need to continue to enhance relations with businesses. Chaired by Robert Donald, with Mandy McNeil (lead councillor) serving as vice chair.
The new structure means that no individual councillor will have decision-making powers. Instead, your councillor now has the opportunity to shape and scrutinise policy from the outset.
Council leader Chris White said: “We estimate that there is a net reduction in meetings (24 Cabinet and scrutiny meetings being replaced by 21 meetings): and some of the meetings under the previous system had little to no meaningful business.
“In addition, a number of smaller bodies will disappear, mainly by having their functions merged into the new structures. So the council becomes more efficient as well as more democratic.
“Why now? There is never an ideal time to introduce change. But to out it another way, it’s always a good time to introduce more democracy.”