Changing the Governance at Cornwall Council

It has been nearly three years since Cornwall Council officially became the main local authority in Cornwall. The model chosen as the main governance is the cabinet system (formal title is executive arrangement) using the ‘strong leadership model’.  My previous experience on how an authority was run was at Kerrier District Council.  This, like Cornwall Council, used the cabinet system, but the cabinet of 10 was from the political balance of the council.   I thought this was a good system because it reflected all groups and parties of the council.

All might change (or not) thanks to the Localism Bill that became law last year in November.  In that Bill, it gives powers to local authorities to establish a system of governance that best suits the area it serves.  The three basic options are the cabinet system, committee system, or a hybrid.  If a hybrid is chosen, this system can only be implemented if it has the permission of the DCLG Sec of State.

I have been selected by the Independent Group, along with Cllr’s David Biggs (Tory), Adam Paynter (LD) and Dick Cole (MK) to start work on the various options that could be implemented.  The issue is complex, and has many different parts to it before any final decision on the governance can be made by the full council.

In truth,  we have a blank piece of paper on the future of how Cornwall Council could be run.  The first thing that the working group has undertaken is talking to all the Cornwall Councillors during February.  This will start with a letter going out to them this week inviting them to put in their views and experience on how Cornwall Council works.  We are not just asking for all the negative stuff, but what also works.

Also, parish and town councils will be asked for their views, comments and experience on dealing with Cornwall Council.  Again, it is not just the negative side we want to hear, but also what works too.  Other key partners like health, the police will also be asked for comments, as will the public.  Senior council officers and staff will also be asked for their views. After all, they will be the ones who have to work under the system.  The working group felt the staffs views were very important.

Once the initial consultations have taken place, the working group will look at the how these views could be made into options. It is these options that will be critical to either keeping the same model, revert to the committee structure, or come up with something very different.

However, it will not be the working groups decision on what is the best form of governance, but the whole of the council. It is hoped an initial report will go to the full council in June/July for more guidance as to the direction of the work.  I hope that during this phase some of the various options will be trimmed.

This work is not about reinventing the wheel, but finding a form of governance that works, and is fit for the people of Cornwall.


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