Councillor Baggy Shanker,
Cabinet Member for Finance and Governance
The structure sitting behind the decisions taken by the council has been brought into the spotlight in recent weeks.
My fellow councillors in the Conservative Group proposed moving to a system where issues are considered by a number committees, each offering their views before another group of members makes a final decision.
It is an interesting debate, and I’m glad they brought it to the table. But ultimately, I’m also pleased we opted to remain with our current system of governance – known as ‘executive arrangements’.
Our current set-up involves a Council Cabinet making the important decisions on the city’s future – informed by the professional advice of officers and in consideration of public opinion, appropriate consultation and the views of a wide range of stakeholders.
Those councillors are held to account by the cross-party Executive Scrutiny Board, which offers a view on each and every key decision before it is considered by Council Cabinet.
The Conservatives argued that their preferred system of multiple committees would give all councillors “a greater say” in how decision were made.
I entirely understand why they would take that view.
During the Conservatives’ last period running the authority, opposition councillors were given the opportunity to consider just five reports before they went to Council Cabinet across a two-year period – and none of the 11 recommendations made were accepted.
The Liberal Democrats were sympathetic to the Conservative view, and may also have been influenced by the ineffective scrutiny arrangements in place when they led the council from 2008-10. Opposition members were given sight of just five matters before they were decided in that period too.
So I do agree with them that when they controlled the council, scrutiny wasn’t as strong as it should have been. It is true that councillors outside of the ruling group didn’t have enough opportunity to offer their expertise.
But we changed all that in 2015 when we transformed how the scrutiny function operates.
Since then, opposition members have had the chance to contribute to 279 decisions the Council Cabinet has taken. Of the 118 recommendations made by the Executive Scrutiny Board, we have accepted 109 of them.
Those figures tell a story. I am proud to have been part of a Council Cabinet which has shown it is prepared to involve all councillors – including our political opponents – to ensure buy-in to our shared ambition to get the very best for our city.
We don’t need a plethora of committees to achieve that cross-party involvement. Nor do we need the unnecessary bureaucracy and public cost of holding meeting after meeting when our current arrangements deliver so effectively and so efficiently.
Debate is always healthy, and it was a discussion worth having. But the facts speak for themselves and I am pleased that the majority of councillors agreed that our decision-making arrangements work well.