Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Changing Governance At CCC: The Leader’s Thoughts And Mine by Cllr David Jenkins

A team from the Local Government Association (the LGA) has just completed a Corporate Peer Challenge of the County Council. Click here for a copy of its report.

It’s a good report and it’s clear about what’s good at CCC and what its big challenges are. It’s complimentary of current leadership (both political and professional) but it expresses concerns as well. And in its recommendations it highlights the proposed move to a committee structure and says that CCC should ‘Ensure there is a robust analysis of the real ‘cost to the business’of the proposed model of governance and its impact on effective decision making’. Fair enough.

Martin Curtis, Tory leader at CCC and as a consequence currently leader of a minority Tory administration, comes out of the review rather well! There are some complementary quotes and the review says:
  • The Leader is respected and seen to have a consensual approach that is right for the time and is what Cambridgeshire CC needs
  • The Leader has a strong vision and commitment to the future prosperity of the County
I can accept these comments. Although I often disagree with what Martin says I have seen him as an honest and hard-working councillor with the best interest of the county at heart.

Subsequent to the publication of the review Martin has blogged. Click here for what he’s said.

What’s rather surprising are his comments about the proposed and imminent move to a committee system and his suggestion that somehow the review has said that it’s going to be bad for the council. And then Martin says why he thinks that it will be so.

The LGA review quite rightly expresses concern about the change in governance. Change is always a challenge and especially so at difficult times. But that’s not a reason for avoiding it when the end result of well-managed change will be positive. And this change will be positive for the Council and for Cambridgeshire because it will increase the involvement of individual councillors in the running of the Council. Until now power has been concentrated with the Leader and his (or in theory her) Cabinet. That’s not right.

Quite rightly the review does not take sides when it speaks of the change. It simply and quite rightly says ‘be careful’.

Martin then talks about a slow down of decision making. He’s right that’s a risk but it’s not inevitable and anyway what’s important is good decision making not necessarily fast decision making.

We will get good (and fast) decision making if there is a well-oiled machine developing the evidence base upon which decisions are based and delivering this in a timely fashion to the committee which is to make the decision. Martin: that’s no change. However you’ve got to admit that many recent decisions have been based on late papers to Cabinet and papers with insufficient content to enable safe decision making. That’s got to improve whichever way we run the Council.

But that’s not the only necessary pre-condition for good (and fast) decision making. The second is where there is a risk and that’s where we need to work hard. The committees themselves have got to be populated by councillors who are well trained and committed to the task. And they’ve got to be well chaired. It’s quite a task. It can be done but it will be more difficult than it need to be if it’s approached without full confidence.

Martin: we are making this change because more councillors want it to happen than don’t. And in my experience they do so not because they hunger for power but because they want to have influence and to make a contribution. It’s time now for you to embrace it and to make sure that it’s a part of your legacy. Don’t let the comment on your blog turn out to be true.