Return to committee structure at Cambs county council will be more ‘democratic’

Tory leader Martin Curtis among early arrivals at Shire Hall

Tory leader Martin Curtis among early arrivals at Shire Hall - Credit: Archant

COUNTY councillors have voted to abolish the cabinet system at Shire Hall and return to a committee structure.

The motion, put by Liberal Democrat Councillor Killian Bourke, was passed yesterday (Tuesday) by 37 votes to 31 – there was one abstention – with the support of Labour, UKIP and Independent councillors.

The decision will see the cabinet system, in which decisions were taken by individual councillors and then scrutinised by other councillors, scrapped and a return of committees that allow more councillors to get involved in making decisions.

The change is likely to take about a year to implement.

Cllr Bourke told the meeting: “It is wrong that so much power is concentrated in the hands of so few people. It is harmful to the quality of decision making. The committee system is the most democratic and representative form of governance.

“We need to make the change so that all council members are involved in decision making that affects their communities, not just 10 cabinet representatives.”

New Conservative leader Councillor Martin Curtis, who is also leader of the county council, put forward an amendment to the motion, which called for the issue to be put before the constitution and ethics committee, which would report back to the council.

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He said: “We accept that in light of the election results we need to review the structure of government, but I feel we are missing a trick insisting on going one way or the other today without allowing a review.

“We should be imaginative and see which system would be in the best interests of the people we serve.”

Labour leader Councillor Paul Sales, pledging his support to the motion, said: “We are not in favour of the amendment since we feel it undoes the very things that we think are in the best interests of the people of Cambridgeshire.”

UKIP leader Councillor Peter Reeve said he was thrilled with the outcome of the vote.

“UKIP said we came here to deliver democracy and, with the support and co-operation of other parties, on day one we have achieved what we set out to do.”

– Cllr Curtis was voted county leader after two ballots – the first involving John Hipkin (Ind) and Maurice Leeke (Lib Dem) after which Cllr Leeke was eliminated. In a head-to-head, Cllr Curtis beat Cllr Hipkin 32-16 – there were 21 abstentions.