THE FUNDAMENTAL governance of West Sussex Ccounty Council will be challenged this week by UKIP’s opposition leader, Cllr Mike Glennon, in a full council motion debate.
Subsequent to legislation introduced by the Labour Government right at the start of the millennium, West Sussex County Council moved to a Cabinet system of governance, whereby specific cabinet members make policy decisions in private, not in the open forum of elected committees.
“Making key decisions behind closed doors brings the risk of a despotism, which flies in the face of democratic accountability”, claimed Mr Glennon, who is also a prospective parliamentary candidate in the county.
“Changes to legislation from 2011 bring the opportunity to return our governance model to the Committee system.
“There would be numerous benefits to this, including broader input from across the ranks of elected councillors, including the minority parties. Given that 62 per cent of West Sussex electors voted for those very parties at the last county election – in fact, 30 per cent for UKIP - this is surely healthier than a small number of Tory cabinet members potentially playing monopoly.
“Currently, the political balance across the very limited select committees, dominated by one majority party – regardless of their wafer thin mandate - does not in my view constitute an effective check and balance on the decision-making powers of the leader and cabinet.
“With enormous cutbacks planned at the county council, it is imperative that major decisions relating to the savings programme are taken in a more open and transparent forum,”
The content of the UKIP motion, which can be viewed on the County Council’s website, argues for an enhanced system of committees, where democratic influence is spread more widely and ultimate decisions are arrived at in a more public arena, plainly webcast to residents. Mr Glennon says that other counties, including Cambridgeshire and Norfolk have already taken this step.
“Apart from clarity, this change would also provide a more solid platform, at which residents and their pressure groups could contribute to debate. Overall, it can only be good for accountability, which seems to have worn so thin in recent years. If we want to see more public participation in the process of government, we simply must take this step and open up the machinery itself. Time to takes those closed doors off their hinges and get ourselves out there in front of the public.” concluded Mr Glennon.
Due to maintenance work on the Chichester chamber, the full council meeting this coming Friday will be held at County Hall North in Horsham.