To receive any questions relating to items on the agenda from members of the public and replies thereto.
Rosie Wibberley referring to Item 7 (Governance Arrangements) on the agenda stated that: the current system of a Cabinet, with a leader who can appoint councillors he knows will agree with him, appears to be a reflection of central government. Whilst this system may be effective in reducing decision making times, this is primarily due to the lack of appropriate debate, and the subsequent scrutiny of these decisions seems to be a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, especially as the reports by this committee can then be ignored. With the current cabinet containing a majority of councillors from a political party that does not have a majority on full council, my question is “do the members of this council believe that the Cabinet offers a fair and accurate representation of their views and is therefore a democratic reflection of the electorate, or is ‘efficiency’ more important than democracy?”
Honorary Alderman Nation again referring to Item 7 on the agenda stated that: My question is addressed to the Leader of the Council. For almost 2 years this Council has dragged its feet carrying out a review of its system of governance in almost complete secrecy. Only once have the public had an opportunity to comment – 6 people sent in written submissions and 5 attended a Zoom session with two members of the Working Group, and others, but with several other councillors having been told they could not participate.
Due to my having made FOI requests to see the minutes of the 8 working group meetings which took place in secret, I have them but they have still not been put in the public domain. The draft minutes of the last working group meeting, 2 March, show how the working group was still so confused that they couldn’t make up their minds whether to recommend the status quo or scrubbing the PDGs in favour of 2 Overview and Scrutiny committees. In both options the present Strong Leader and Cabinet system would continue.
Is the Leader aware how unhappy the people of Mid Devon will feel about the failure, after 2 years, to address their concerns about the undemocratic and exclusive manner in which this Council is run and does he feel that sufficient has been done to involve the public in a debate about the system of governance and options to change this?
Mr Craythorne again referring to Item 7 on the agenda asked 2 questions:
Slide 3 from the LGA governance workshop shows attendees’ concerns about rudeness, tolerance (or lack thereof, I guess), negativity, inflexibility, disrespectfulness, and so on.
Given that without a catalyst, changes in personal behaviour are extremely difficult to bring about, does the Council recognise that it needs to put in place new structures which spread power, responsibility and accountability, enable engagement and participation in decision making, and thus help neutralise the temptation to engage in this kind of unhelpful and damaging behaviour?
Slide 2 of the feedback on the LGA governance workshop shows that ‘scrutiny’ and ‘cabinet’ are the front runners in respect of those elements of governance which members want to keep. This is interpreted as a ‘line in the sand’ for the Governance WP to refer to.
However, in the following slide (3), ‘strong leader’ and ‘cabinet’ are identified as the two elements which members most want to change. In contrast to being taken as a ‘line in the sand’, this is interpreted as showing ‘no strong shared opinion that the cabinet/leader model should change,’ but rather that there are simply concerns about behaviours and their impact.
Why have such different interpretations been drawn from these two slides; and whose interpretation is it?
The Leader indicated that a considered response would be given to all of the comments in writing and copied to all members.