After an angry debate where the Conservative deputy Leader of Council was ordered to apologise, South Glos Tories voted to exclude most councillors from future decision making. Instead, power will be concentrated in the hands of just a few cabinet members, who can make decisions behind closed doors.
Ruth Davis, Lib Dem leader and former leader of a Cabinet in South Glos, said:
“Cabinets are the worst system we have tried. You either believe in allowing members to speak, or you do not. We have been through all the configurations – and we would always come back to the one we currently have. We shouldn’t be concentrating power like this. We were one of the first councils in the country to go back to committees, to involve as many members as possible. We achieved a 4* rating through collegiate working! Now that’s all gone.”
Deputy Lib Dem leader Cllr Claire Young (Westerleigh) proposed that the new scrutiny commission – which will question the decisions of the administration – should be chaired by a member of an opposition group.
“As liberals, we believe in open, democratic decision making. We feel that it is vital for proper scrutiny that the ruling group does not manage the meetings where the administration is being scrutinised. They shouldn’t be left to scrutinise themselves.”
Tories unanimously voted down this amendment, and another suggesting that all parties be involved in writing the new constitution.