Basildon Council reverts to cabinet system

Basildon Council has voted to rip up its system of governance after just five years – but has been accused of giving its senior members a pay rise under the new system.

The council voted last night (May 26) to adopt a cabinet system of governance after scrapping it in favour of a committee system in 2017.

Under the new system, senior councillors will hold executive positions over key policy areas, such as regeneration and strategic planning.

But the Labour group has accused the Conservative-run administration, which took control of the council in 2021, of giving themselves a 29 per cent pay rise, as cabinet members are paid extra allowances.

According to a council report, the budget for special responsibility allowances was £130,000 per year under the old system, but this has now increased to £178,000

The Conservatives denied special responsibility allowances constitute a pay rise and are arguing the new cabinet system is a more efficient system of governance which allows the council to make decisions more quickly.

At Thursday’s meeting, council leader Andrew Baggott (Con, Burstead) said rates were set by the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP), which will likely review the new system after it has been adopted.

He said: “We have laboured under the unwieldy and very, very unhappy committee system now for five years.

“We’ve seen the effects on the public of not being able to make decisions easily, on not being able to get rapid decisions made when times are hard”.

Later he said: “The word ‘pay rise’ was used two times by Cllr [Kerry] Smith and three times by Cllr [Maryam] Yaqub, totally failing to understand that we don’t get paid, we don’t get a salary, we get an allowance and there’s a fundamental difference.”

New Labour group leader Councillor Maryam Yaqub (St Martins) claimed the administration would be going against IRP recommendations, despite claims to the contrary by Cllr Baggott.

She said: “You are going against their recommendation tonight. You are giving yourself a 29 per cent pay rise and forming a cabinet costing the taxpayer a total of £178,000 to meet just seven times in the entire year.”

The council previously voted to change to the new system in summer last year, but made its final resolution at last night’s meeting.

Labour and independent councillors say the committee system is more transparent, and gives the opposition a chance to contribute to decision making. 

Under this system, decisions were debated and voted on by committees made up of cross party councillors, before going to full council for final approval.

But the Conservatives say the committee system takes too much time and that the cabinet system will allow the council to make decisions faster, to the benefit of residents.

Under the cabinet system, the council is held to account via scrutiny committees, but some councillors feel this is ineffective as it deals with issues after they have already happened, rather than before policies have been approved.

Independent group leader Kerry Smith (Nethermayne) said: “Scrutiny, the horse has bolted, it’s the other side of the field and it’s long gone. That’s what happens when you take something to scrutiny.”

Leader of the Wickford Independents David Harrison (Wickford Park) also said scrutiny committees had been chaired by opposition councillors in the past, whereas Conservatives had been appointed to chair them this year.

Who is on the new cabinet?

  • Cllr Andrew Baggott, Cabinet Member for Enforcement and Public Order
  • Cllr Kevin Blake, Cabinet Member for Environment and Carbon Reduction
  • Cllr Anthony Hedley, Cabinet Member for Economic Growth and Business Engagement
  • Cllr Jeff Henry, Cabinet Member for Health, Wellbeing, Leisure, Arts and Culture
  • Cllr Richard Moore, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning and Infrastructure
  • Cllr Craig Rimmer, Cabinet Member for Regeneration
  • Cllr Terri Sargent, Cabinet Member for Communities
  • Cllr Andrew Schrader, Cabinet Member for Housing and Estate Renewal
  • Cllr Stuart Sullivan, Cabinet Member for Resources and Commercial

Who is chairing the remaining non-executive and other committees?

Planning Committee

  • Chair: Cllr Carole Morris
  • Vice Chair: Cllr David Dadds

Licensing Committee

  • Chair: Cllr Daniel Lawrence
  • Vice Chair: Cllr Davida Ademuyiwa

Audit and Risk Committee

  • Chair: Cllr Gary Canham
  • Vice Chair: Cllr Stuart Allen

Joint Standards Committee

  • Chair: Cllr David Dadds
  • Vice Chair: to be appointed at first meeting

Staffing and General Purposes Committee

  • Chair: Cllr David Dadds
  • Vice Chair: Cllr Andrew Baggott

Who is chairing the scrutiny committees?

Overview and Scrutiny Commission

  • Chair: Cllr Kevin Wingfield
  • Vice Chair: Cllr David Dadds

People Scrutiny Committee

  • Chair: Cllr Stuart Terson
  • Vice Chair: Cllr Alex Myers

Place Scrutiny Committee

  • Chair: Cllr Don Morris
  • Vice Chair: Cllr Sam Gascoyne

Prosperity Scrutiny Committee

  • Chair: Cllr Peter Holliman
  • Vice Chair: Cllr George Jeffery
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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter