Guildford Borough Council is taking an in-depth look at the way it operates its leadership, its Executive and other decision-making operations.
A cross-party group of councillors has started work on a “balanced and thorough look at how these operations work”.
At a meeting on October 7 the council tasked its joint scrutiny committee to review all available decision-making models and to recommend any improvements to the council’s governance arrangements.
Following a meeting of the joint scrutiny committee on November 13, the council reports that a separate task and finish group (TFG) was established to do this “important and detailed work”.
In a statement from the council, the chairman of the TFG, Cllr Tony Rooth, explained: “We are taking a fresh and open look at the way the council operates and makes decisions.
“The task and finish group is cross-party, non-political and starts with a blank canvas. We are keen to start from first principles to look at what good governance means. This is a very important part of the council’s responsibility and we want to hear views about our current structure, and look at all the possible options, before recommending any changes.
“The council currently uses a leader and executive structure, alongside a number of cross-party scrutiny and other committees. The aim of any governance model is to make sure that decision-making is transparent, efficient and accountable and each has its own merits.”
Cllr Caroline Reeves, leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat group and TFG member, added: “It is vital to have councillors from all parties on the group to help with this important work. Good governance is also about participation, attitudes and behaviour as well as how the Council is organised.”
Cllr Angela Gunning, leader of the council’s Labour group and TFG member, said: “I am pleased to see a wide representation. It’s our job to look very carefully at the best option for the council, based on evidence and the key requirements.”
The TFG will gather data and feedback from a variety of sources to identify the essential attributes that best meet the council’s needs. They will then evaluate the different models and make a recommendation to the joint scrutiny committee, Executive and council.
The council’s statement adds: “A vital part of assessing the current situation and understanding the different models will be engaging with councillors, partners, stakeholders and others to get their views. Please look out for further details about how to get involved. The TFG will also gather evidence from wider sources such as Local Government Association research and discussions with other councils.”
Since the Localism Act 2011, there are three main governance models to choose.
Leader and cabinet (or Executive) – a governance system that most councils, including Guildford Borough Council, operate. A leader, who is usually the leader of the largest party, leads cabinet. Full council elects them for a term determined by the council itself or on a four yearly basis. These councils must have at least one overview and scrutiny committee
Mayoral system – these councils have a directly-elected executive mayor with wide decision-making powers. The mayor appoints a cabinet made up of other councillors, who may also have decision-making powers. These councils must also have at least one overview and scrutiny committee.
Committee system – these councils make most decisions in committees, which are made up of a mix of councillors from all political parties. They have a number of service committees, which will often align with council departments. Normally this model has a policy and resources committee that makes the key policy decisions. This is usually chaired by the leader of the largest party. They may have one or more overview and scrutiny committees to coordinate and scrutinise work programmes, but are not required to.
Correspondence published on The Guildford Dragon NEWS, in reply to a range of stories relating to Guildford Borough Council, have, at times, questioned the current system in operation at the council.