Cornwall Council is conducting a Governance Review post the introduction of the Localism Act. It does not have to do this, but the council and its Members felt it was the right thing to do. The aim of the review is to find the best form of governance for the people of Cornwall.
My role in all this is I am part of the review panel looking into the various options. I fundamentally believe any change has to be in the public interest, or we should not do it. For most of the public, it will not matter which system Cornwall Council has, as long they feel their opinion really counts. I have said before, if the process is flawed, then no matter which system you have, the process is still flawed. This review is also not about decisions made, but the process. So it is very important to get that process right.
There are five basic options on the table. Keeping with the existing format (strong leader); a different Cabinet set up; committee structure; a hybrid system or a Mayor. For Councillors, there have only been two real options on the table, the cabinet or the committee structure. However, a hybrid could come about by picking the best bits from the Cabinet and committee system, or if the public want something else, then it should have that.
As for the Mayor option, this is not at the top of the list. Though, so I am not eating my own words later on, I will say if the population of Cornwall want a Mayor, then it can have one. At the moment no one yet has said it is a good idea, and I personally think it will not work in Cornwall for various reasons. But my personal view is not important.
For the review to work it really needs the public’s input, as without it any change to how the council is administered could be wrong and the public is no better off than they are now.
The difficulty is when you mention how a council runs as in an administration, you often get a glazed expression back with the words of: ‘ as long my bin is emptied, pothole filled and council tax is not too high etc’ they do not mind how a council arranges the deck chairs. Or, they will mention an actual decision that has been made.
My greatest fear with this review is Cornwall Councillor’s reinvent the wheel and end up with a square wheel. Any change has to be for the right reason and not for political power, or nostalgic reasons.