Community leaders aim to turn the clock back in leadership debate


John Ward, Conservative leader at Babergh District Council, has committed to improving engagement and communication with the rest of the council - Credit: BABERGH DISTRICT COUNCIL

Portfolio holders at a Suffolk council could be scrapped in favour of a committee system of decision making, as councillors have agreed to hold a debate in the New Year on future leadership.

Babergh District Council currently operates a leader and cabinet model of governance where a leader and series of councillors with portfolios on specific areas make many of the decisions.

But the Green group at the authority, which does not currently have any representation on the Conservative/Independent/Liberal Democrat cabinet, has called for a return to the committee system utilised until May 2017.

That would involve committees for each of the portfolios, such as housing, environment or economic growth, with councillors from all political parties being represented in those according to their numbers on the council.

Green group councillor Robert Lindsay put forward a motion to Thursday night’s full council meeting calling for consideration of the committee system to be brought back, approved by the council.

Green councillors want to revert to the committee system

Green councillors want to revert to the committee system - Credit: JASON NOBLE LDRS

He said: “The key fact is that the committee system is the only system that guarantees every councillor has a say on what the council is doing.

“If you are not from the largest party you may not get your ideas through, but at least you get a chance to have a say and vote on it.

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“We have to have another debate anyway. I think it is reasonable to have that debate when we are allowed to have it.”

Local Government legislation requires councils to stay locked in to a system of decision making for at least five years.

The Conservatives enjoyed a majority between 2015 and 2019, but didn’t retain enough councillors to keep control in the May 2019 elections.

A rainbow coalition of four Conservatives, three Independents and one Liberal Democrat therefore formed an administration.

However, the Greens and Labour do not have representation on that body.

Conservative leader John Ward said: “I made a commitment at the February meeting this year that the cabinet would look at ways of improving engagement and communication with the rest of the council.

“However, it is clear from conversations I have had that there is still more to do, which is evidenced by desire to explore the option of reverting to the committee system of governance, as many believe this would be more inclusive."