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Shake-up for how Norfolk decisions are made

PUBLISHED: 15:06 11 April 2014 | UPDATED: 15:06 11 April 2014

The full council meets at County Hall. The way Norfolk County Council makes decisions could be about to change. Picture: Denise Bradley

The full council meets at County Hall. The way Norfolk County Council makes decisions could be about to change. Picture: Denise Bradley


A radical shake-up is on the cards for how decisions which affect hundreds of thousands of people in Norfolk are made - after proposals were published to overhaul the way Norfolk County Council works.

With councillors increasingly feeling they were being sidelined by the current cabinet system, following last May’s elections they pressed for a return to a committee system at County Hall.

And a steering group set up to explore how that might work has now published its proposals, which would see the biggest change in how the council makes decisions in a decade.

The council voted in November, by 41 to 35, with two abstentions, for a proposal to move away from the current cabinet model in favour of a form of committee governance from May this year.

Those who voted in favour wanted to move away from the current system - where the vast majority of decisions are made by the 10 councillors on the cabinet - to a system largely based on committee decision making.

While the council will elect a leader each year, the group is proposing five committees, which will be able to make decisions. But any which commit the authority to spending more than £100m will have to be taken by a full meeting of the council.

And, if the relevant committee, or the council leader and managing director feel a matter is of “great significance”, it will be referred to the full council.

The leader will be chairman of a new policy and resources committee, which will help develop the council’s budget.

The number of meetings held by the council each year will be similar to the current level. Membership of the committees will be constituted on politically proportionate lines and the new arrangements will come into force at the end of this May.

UKIP councillor Paul Smyth, who represents Swaffham and chaired the steering group which came up with the proposals, said the move would strengthen the role of the council’s 84 elected members.

He said: “Hopefully, it will bring greater democracy, transparency and accountability to the Council by giving councillors from all parties a much larger role in decision making.

“The proposals we have developed over time will provide us with a strong council, well defined delegations of authority and clear divisions of responsibility that should promote good governance in Norfolk.”

The proposal will be discussed on Monday by the authority’s constitution advisory group and a decision will be made by full council on April 28.

If approved, it would start in May, with a six-month review in case it becomes clear changes need to be made.

George Nobbs, leader of the council, said: “There has been widespread discontent with the cabinet system – not just in Norfolk but across many counties – and we have answered the many calls for reform.

“But remember this new arrangement is largely the work of the ordinary members and they have worked tirelessly over the past few months to arrive at today’s proposals. They deserve the support of all of us.”

The drawing up of the proposals has not been without drama. In January the two Conservative representatives on the steering group walked out, saying they would no longer participate in an “undemocratic process”.

• Do you think the change is needed? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.


  • A good idea if it works, and whipping comes out of the mix. The profoundly undemocratic "Cabinet" system was a product of the 2000 Local Government Act introduced by New Labour (the people who wanted ID cards and promoted spying, restrictions on reading out the names of dead soldiers in London and other dirigiste moves, and who had no idea of democracy). I suppose the Cabinet system in local government was an "hommage" to the "sofa government" system beloved by Blair and Co. If it does indeed go, good riddance to another insult to democracy and the people of the County.

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    T Doff

    Friday, April 11, 2014

  • Best Way sack the lot of them and start afresh

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    John L Cooper

    Friday, April 11, 2014

  • If this goes ahead will we then get the merest glimpse of democracy? I doubt it.

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    John L Norton

    Friday, April 11, 2014

  • Those who are unhappy with the present Cabinet system should not get too excited about its proposed replacement. The key decisions will still be taken by the inner core of activist councillors. Whereas at the moment they take them in public with officers advice available at Cabinet meetings under this system they will often be taken in private meetings without officer support and then ratified through the Committees.

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    Old Hand

    Friday, April 11, 2014

  • Politically proportionate lines means that the Conservatives will, I believe, have the majority of members on each of the 5 committees proposed. Ability to think and vote unwhipped and after reasonable debate and discussion with other Councillors on these committees will be the greatest test since the Incinerator debacle for the Conservatives. Roll on the 6 month trial, can't come soon enough.

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    Friday, April 11, 2014

  • Hopefully these Committees will have more sense than the idiots who signed up to the Kings Lynn fiasco.£100 Million seems too high a limit for them to sign up to.

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    Friday, April 11, 2014

  • I hope the party 'whips' are not part of the new system.

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    Friday, April 11, 2014

  • This is the way forward to start rebuilding trust in our council. All that needs to be done now is get rid of those members, and officers, who put their own self interest above the interests of those they are in office to serve.

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    Canary Boy

    Friday, April 11, 2014

  • A good move and it can be made to work faster than critics say it will work, if cllrs. are willing to work together, as to come up with decision when they are due and were satisfactorily debated. Its only Labour and Conservatives that use this form of undemocratic censoring of representatives, as far as I know, Barking, its one of the reasons why party politics has ruined democracy and coherent thought, but there are other factors, were split loyalties foster agendas not in the public interest.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Friday, April 11, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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