Saturday, 21 May 2016

West Dorset referendum to change the council system >>> "Local politics only works if local people feel they have a real say in the issues affecting their neighbourhoods."

Last year, campaigners challenged the status quo in West Dorset:
Futures Forum: West Dorset District Council >>> cabinet system to be challenged by popular referendum

Last week the campaign produced a result - which was widely reported:
West Dorset District Council structure shake-up following referendum - BBC News
'A VICTORY FOR PEOPLE POWER': West Dorset votes for change in council system (From Dorset Echo)
West Dorset District Council to end Cabinet-style rule - News - Midweek Herald
Dorset referendum: voters back committee system, not Leader and Cabinet | East Devon Watch
Cabinet v. Committee system of district council governance | East Devon Watch

However, despite the clear message, things will take time to put into practice:

Why will it take a year to implement council changes?

LOCAL members of the Green Party are urging leaders at West Dorset District Council to immediately honour the results of the referendum, which will see them change to a committee style of governance.
The council has announced that changing from a cabinet style system would take until May next year.
Kelvin Clayton, Bridport town councillor and chairman of the South and West Dorset Green Party, is calling on the council to clarify why it would take 12 months to implement the results of the referendum.
He said: “You could send a manned space mission to Mars in less time than West Dorset councillors say it will take to rearrange the seating around their cabinet table. People voted by a big majority to replace this unpopular single party cabinet with a wider range of voices and opinions, so why don’t they get on with it? I call on the leader of the council to explain why this implementation will take so long.”
The referendum was triggered by a petition from Public First who gathered more than 6,000 signatures from West Dorset electors calling for the district council to adopt a committees system.
The group wanted the leader of the council to voluntarily adopt a committee style system, which would have saved the cost of £95,000 to hold the referendum on May 5th.
More than 25,000 West Dorset electors took to the polls, with 16,534 people voting in favour of the change and 8,811 voting to stay with the cabinet system.
Cllr Clayton added: “Public First should be congratulated, not criticised. If the council had listened to them in the first place this wouldn’t have gone to a vote. Local politics only works if local people feel they have a real say in the issues affecting their neighbourhoods. The latest decision to ignore the verdict of the referendum for the next 12 months is an insult to the 25,000 people who took the time and trouble to take part.
“How on earth can West Dorset District Council’s leaders claim they want to listen to people when they behave like this? Some of the cabinet appear to be living in the 19th century, the rest of us are living in the 21st century. It would be nice if they could join us.”
Cllr Anthony Alford, leader of West Dorset District Council, said that it will take many months to get everything in place and implement the changes.
He said: “The change to the committee system cannot be implemented overnight, it is a fundamentally different  form of local governance falling under different legislative control. It will require a complete review of the council’s constitution covering everything from committee procedures to financial regulations.
“The district council will be involving all councillors in the review process. The public would expect members to have a full debate and consideration of the alternatives and the ways that procedures will change. The overall process will take many months to complete and will be followed by the formal decision making process by councillors. If there is a possibility to implement a change sooner than May 2017 then this will be reviewed over the months ahead and after the relevant consideration of the processes and legislation.”
Why will it take a year to implement council changes?

See also:
Futures Forum: Devolution, unitary authorities and the East Devon & Dorset National Park

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