Conservative Group Leader on Brighton & Hove City Council – Cllr. Geoffrey Theobald – is calling on his opposite number in the Labour Group to back his proposal for fully democratic, politically balanced meetings of the Council when the authority reverts to a ‘committee system’ of governance in May.
The Localism Act, introduced by the Coalition Government in early 2012, gives councils the opportunity to ditch the unpopular one party Leader and Cabinet system and instead introduce the more open and democratic multi-party Committee System. All three political groups on the Council signed up to this principle back in December but the Green Administration is now planning to renege on a key aspect of the new system – political proportionality.
Under plans put forward by the Greens to be debated next Tuesday, the most important committees, including the powerful Policy & Resources Committee that will take decisions on key budgetary and policy matters, will have 50% of its members drawn from the Green Party despite them holding only 42% of seats on the Council. In practice, this will mean that they can force through any decision they want with the casting vote of the Committee Chair.
The Conservative proposal would increase the number of members on the Policy & Resources Committee from 10 to 12 to enable genuine political balance to be restored. Conservatives are also proposing to reduce the number of committees in the new system by 1, saving council taxpayers around Ł15,000 per year.
Cllr. Theobald said: “This is a blatant attempt at a power grab by the Greens and I urge Cllr. Mitchell and the rest of the Labour Group to join with me in putting a stop to it. The Greens need to recognise that they don’t have anything like a majority of seats on the Council and attracted only 32% of the vote at last May’s local elections. As we know, when you are running a minority Administration you have to be prepared to make compromises.”
Cllr. Garry Peltzer Dunn, who sat on the working group that helped draw up the proposals said: “This is an example of blatant political gerrymandering by the Greens and I feel very let down by them. At the outset, we were all agreed in principle that we should have the most democratic system possible. If the Greens are allowed to get their way, we will in effect be back to the same rubber-stamping operation that we have under the current Cabinet system. The residents of Brighton & Hove deserve better.”