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Brighton & Hove’s Labour Council proposes move to Cabinet system

February 21, 2024
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Brighton & Hove’s Labour Council is proposing to move to a new system of democratic governance. The proposals would see the council move from a Committee system to a Cabinet system. 

The Cabinet system for local government was brought in by the last Labour Government through the Local Government Act 2000 and designed to strengthen public engagement with local democracy and better support councils to deliver their objectives. If adopted, the new system will also align with the council’s organisational restructure, and both changes will contribute to streamlining the council’s work and preventing siloed working across council services. 

The city council has operated a Committee system model for years, arguably partly as a result of the decades-long situation of no party having overall control. Most councils across the country operate a Cabinet system. 

It is anticipated that cabinet meetings, which would be held more frequently than the current committee cycle and be empowered to take decisions affecting multiple areas of the council’s operations, will enable more responsive and timely decision making. The new system would also require a forward-looking plan for decision-making and for all planned key decisions to be published 28 days in advance, giving residents greater advance notice of plans and decisions than is currently the case under the committee system. It will also be clearer to the public when and where decisions are taken and who is taking them, because decision making on the most significant decisions will all be taken at the monthly cabinet meetings. 

In their 2023 manifesto, Labour stated that the benefit of a Labour majority council would be that it would enable Labour to work on behalf of the city more efficiently to deliver the vital services that are needed. Moving to a Cabinet system will enable the Labour administration to deliver for the city through a more streamlined decision-making process. As part of the move, residents will be consulted on how the council can operate in a more open way with more opportunities for public engagement. 

All Cabinet decisions will be made in public with the opportunity for public engagement, while key regulatory committees – planning, licensing and audit and standards – will continue, and new overview and scrutiny committees will ensure strong accountability and policy scrutiny. 

An initial officer report setting out the proposed changes to the Council’s constitution and moving to a new system of democratic governance will be presented to members at the Strategy, Finance and City Regeneration Committee on 14 March, where if agreed a further report would be brought to the next meeting of Full Council on 28 March proposing that the new system is adopted at Annual Council in May 2024.

Labour Leader of the Council, Bella Sankey said: “We are under a duty to keep our governance arrangements under review and having looked at the various options available to local councils we are proposing a move to the Cabinet model of governance at Brighton & Hove, following in the footsteps of most other Local Authorities, including many successful Labour-led ones.

“Above all else, we want to engage meaningfully with residents and deliver for our city at pace, including on the priorities in our manifesto, which is the platform on which we stood and secured a majority. With this mandate from residents, we owe it to them to ensure the governance arrangements of the council reflect its political make up and are fit for purpose.

“I am confident that moving to a Cabinet model will improve our ability to lead the organisation and help us to deliver the policy commitments we set out in our manifesto, more efficiently.

“One of the fundamental principles of the move will be greater openness and engagement with the public. As we move forward with this process, we will be seeking residents views on how we best do this under the new model.”

Author

Cllr Bella Sankey

Leader of Brighton & Hove City Council
Chair of the Strategy, Finance & City Regeneration Committee
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