Basildon Council to revert to leadership and cabinet governance after four years

Basildon borough councillors have voted to revert to the leadership and cabinet form of governance only four years after rejecting it.

The council plans to adopt the system on May 26 next year, the earliest date possible without holding a referendum.

Conservative council leader Andrew Baggott  said the committee system form of governance currently used by the council slows down decision making and stops councillors from adequately serving residents.

He said: “You can’t sneeze without having to go to a committee.

“It doesn’t allow us to get things done, it doesn’t allow us to get things done speedily and it’s certainly not in keeping with this administration’s desire to actually move forward, move quickly and get things delivered for residents.”

Speaking against the motion, Independent Group leader Kerry Smith described the cabinet model as “reminiscent of North Korea”.

He said: “That’s the first battle line for next May’s local elections that residents will have to decide on, back to the bad old days when a cabal of politicians would sit there in a room with almost no public attendance.”

At an extraordinary council meeting held on  May 25, 2017 the council resolved to cease operating the leader and cabinet form of governance and start to operate a committee system . It cannot change its form of governance again for five years, unless approved in a referendum.

Referring to the 2017 debate, Cllr Andrew Shrader (Con) said: “I had no experience of the old system but my worry then was that it seemed to me cumbersome.

“I’ve had four years’ experience of it now and it met all my low expectations and exceeded them in its uselessness.”

Basildon Labour group leader Cllr Jack Ferguson responded by saying the committee system increased opportunities for the opposition to put across their points of view, and  his Tory colleagues benefited from this before they regained control of the council earlier this year.

He said: “I have seen it leading to politicians being able to work together to put aside party interests to work in the interests of the whole borough.”

However, Cllr Anthony Hedley (Con), provoked uproar when he described the committee system as “disabled and may I say moribund,” causing Mayor David Dadds to intervene to regain control of the debate.

Councillors voted 24 in favour to 14 against, meaning chief executive Scott Logan will be asked to progress matters so a formal resolution can be drawn up by next May.

Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter