Council votes to keep its leader

John Ward, Conservative leader at Babergh District Council. Picture: BABERGH DISTRICT COUNCIL

John Ward, Conservative leader at Babergh District Council. - Credit: BABERGH DISTRICT COUNCIL

A Suffolk council has voted to keep its current decision-making process - but pledged to allow backbenchers to be more involved via advisory groups.

Babergh District Council will keep its leader and cabinet members following a discussion over the involvement of councillors.

Some members had called for the cabinet member decision-making model to be scrapped and replaced with a system of committees that would be politically proportionate.

The key advantage of the committee system is that all parties can be represented, according to a report.

The council previously had a committee system up until May 2017, when it moved to the current arrangement of leader and cabinet.

Had a committee system been approved, it would have tied the council into a five-year period under the model.

Conservative council leader John Ward, who proposed keeping the current system but with some tweaks, said the advantages of a cabinet system such as efficiency of decision making and increased accountability could be kept.

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However, Mr Ward pledged an ‘enhanced’ leader and cabinet model which will see a review take place to ensure policies of the most strategic importance were reserved for full council.

In addition, the cabinet could appoint advisory panels made up of backbenchers to allow them to be consulted on decisions.

Mr Ward said: “I am mindful and sensitive of some of the issues as reported by the working group regarding engagement with backbenchers, and to that effect we have already implemented some changes to how council operates, but also there are proposed changes to the cabinet model.

“I firmly believe that given a chance they will prove to be very effective and improve that engagement significantly.”

Green councillor Robert Lindsay said the Greens had not been represented on the cabinet despite being the third largest party after the Conservatives and Independents and second in vote share behind the Tories, dubbing it a “disaster for democracy”.

He added that advisory panels were “neither one thing or another” and were “not proper decision making bodies”.

Conservative backbencher Peter Beer said the cabinet was “removed from us and the general public”, citing controversial decisions around free parking he described as a “fiasco”. He said that a cabinet system only worked when a party had an overall majority.