Fringe Box



Letter: The Council Should Revert To The Committee System

Published on: 31 Aug, 2014
Updated on: 31 Aug, 2014
GBC Council Chamber Millmead

GBC Council Chamber Millmead

From Gordon Bridger

I very much agree with my colleague Bernard Parke that the system of Executive government imposed on local authorities by a Labour Government was a retrogressive step. It entailed the establishment of an Executive (of up to ten councillors) with the power to make decisions, unless reports are called in by Scrutiny Committees.

It also significantly disenfranchised the remaining 39 councillors by getting rid of committees on which they sat and which had filtered council officers reports before going to the Executive. I cannot agree however with him that an elected Mayor is the answer.

The answer is to revert to the committee system which provided all councillors with a much more useful role and made for better decisions, by more careful assessment of  officers reports.

It does not require an expensive consultation process to do this as some think, for the Localism Bill, aware of this unsatisfactory situation allows Councils to go back to the Committee system if they so wish. Some councils have done so. It is up to Guildford councillors to stand up for themselves and vote for this change.

Councillors also need to stand up to the intimidating advice frequently given by Legal advisers who terrify those who are likely to be involved in planning decisions not to voice their opinions on any planning applications as it could predetermine their decisions and their impartiality.

The Localism Bill (page 5) makes it quite clear that councillors must not “be intimated from publicly expressing their views on local issues for fear of being accused of bias”. Come on councillors – it’s up to you .

On the positive side, congratulations to the council for the environmental improvements to North Street. They are excellent. But how long do we have to wait for the High Street setts and pavements infilled with tar to be properly repaired? It would be very embarrassing if on Armed Forces Day the military start tripping over the setts? Left, right, whoops a daisy.

Gordon Bridger is an Hon Alderman, a former Mayor and former Lib Dem borough councillor.

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Responses to Letter: The Council Should Revert To The Committee System

  1. Martin Elliott Reply

    August 31, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    Does Mr Bridger really think the Conservative group didn’t realise what the results of a Cabinet scheme would be.

    It might seem easy to use the Localism Bill to start a process to reverse it but as electronic gathering of support is not allowed, it will take a lot more campaigning and feet on the ground to get it started.

    Even then I think some radical changes will be needed next year.

    The council elections look interesting.

  2. Susan Parker Reply

    September 1, 2014 at 9:39 am

    There is of course already a referendum petition, using the Localism Bill, for exactly the purpose of reverting to the Committee System as Gordon Bridger has proposed. So the process has been started. Signatures are coming in fast, but we need more to force the council to obtain a referendum on this – we need 5243 signatures.

    The petition can be downloaded and printed from the GGG website, and can then be sent to the address on that website. The link is here: – click on the white tab marked “Referendum” and the form can be downloaded and printed off – there is a page of instructions and then the formal petition page, together with instructions about where to send it.

    You can sign this even if you are not a GGG supporter – the petition relates only to the creation of the committee system. It has been organised by Local Democracy Limited which is a limited company completely separate from (although set up by) the Guildford Greenbelt Group.

  3. Jules Cranwell Reply

    September 1, 2014 at 10:22 am

    Excellent analysis from Gordon Bridger. He in in the very best position to know what is wrong with the executive system.

    It would be best for all concerned if this executive volunteered a referendum on the subject, to let the public have its say, rather than being forced into it via the petition.

    Who knows, it may even go some way to restoring public respect for the council.

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