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Cabinet System Adopted In Brighton & Hove Despite Greens And Conservatives Opposition

Monday, 20 May 2024 07:21

By Sarah Booker-Lewis, Local Democracy Reporter

Policy-making committees have officially been scrapped as Brighton and Hove City Council voted through a new constitution.

Council leader Bella Sankey said that the new arrangements would enhance public engagement, streamline council decision-making and bring more openness, accountability and effective overview and scrutiny.

The move places most decisions in the hands of 10 Labour councillors in a cabinet let by Councillor Sankey, with a further four councillors acting as advisers.

Two overview and scrutiny committees – one for “place” and the other for “people” – will have the ability to review decisions.

Councillor Sankey said:

“The ambition of this administration is to deliver governance arrangements that truly serve our council and city, moving away from the paralysis of no overall control and enabling efficient decision-making which allows us to unlock this city’s potential.”

She said that public questions, deputations and petitions would still feature at meetings of the full council and scrutiny committees and be extended to monthly meetings of the cabinet.

Councillors would also be able to ask questions at full council, committee and cabinet meetings – and group leaders or nominees could make representations at cabinet meetings.

Work is under way to extend public engagement and this could include options such as question times and citizen assemblies.

Green councillor Pete West said that he was unsure whether the new constitution was ready for adoption.

He said that the council had previously considered changes to the constitution through a cross-party working group that would consider all angles and serve up “fully baked” proposals.

Councillor West said:

“It’s a pity the administration hasn’t taken that approach. The cabinet system itself excludes debate and proper consideration of other voices.

“My main beef with this cabinet system proposal is the absence of cabinet member decision-making meetings which we had in the previous iteration.”

He was concerned that cabinet members would be able to make spending decisions up to £1 million in private, without effective oversight by other councillors.

Labour councillor Jacob Taylor, one of two deputy leaders, responded. He is the new cabinet member for finance and city regeneration.

He said that the cabinet would deliver a better-performing council and that this was not a power-grab by Labour or a way of avoiding scrutiny.

Councillor Taylor said:

“Many people feel this council has fallen behind in recent decades, particularly when delivering the basic services that contribute to the look and feel of the city.

“In my view, a significant contributor to that decline has been the lack of political majority, combined with the committee system that has led to a siloed organisation and a lack of clear direction.”

Conservative councillor Anne Meadows said that the oversight previously exercised by seven policy committees would be carried out by just two scrutiny committees. There would also be “task and finish groups”.

She said:

“You have transport, housing delivery (and) waste management alongside parks and open spaces, toilets and environmental services – all huge services in their own right now crammed into one scrutiny panel or committee.

“This is a recipe for disaster and I can’t wait to see this fall apart as task and finish groups want or need priority.”

She called for a halt to land sales until risks had been properly considered – in a veiled reference to the prospect of the council selling Patcham Court Farm to the Royal Mail.

The cabinet would be personally responsible, she said, for the “clean up” needed should the water supply be polluted.

The vote in favour of switching from committees to a cabinet was 40 to 11, with Labour and Independent councillors backing the move and Greens and Conservatives against.

The cabinet is made up of 10 councillors.

  • Councillor Bella Sankey – leader of the council
  • Councillor Jacob Taylor – deputy leader and cabinet member for finance and city regeneration
  • Councillor Gill Williams – deputy leader and cabinet member for housing and new homes
  • Councillor Emma Daniel – cabinet member for children, families and youth services
  • Councillor Tristram Burden – cabinet member for adult social care and service transformation
  • Councillor Tim Rowkins – cabinet member for net zero and environmental services
  • Councillor Trevor Muten – cabinet member for transport, parking and public realm
  • Councillor Leslie Pumm – cabinet member for communities, equalities and human rights
  • Councillor Birgit Miller – cabinet member for culture, heritage and tourism
  • Councillor Alan Robins – cabinet member for sports and recreation

Four cabinet advisers have been appointed.

  • Councillor Ty Goddard – cabinet adviser for regional partnerships and economic growth
  • Councillor Mitchie Alexander – cabinet adviser for community engagement, food insecurity and allotments
  • Councillor Paul Nann – cabinet adviser for a homeless hub
  • Councillor Joy Robinson – cabinet adviser for contract management and procurement

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