Wednesday, 22 May 2013
Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council
As some of you may have read or seen, I was elected as Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council yesterday. For anyone interested in how politics works I suspect yesterday was a fascinating meeting with a huge amount of debate about changes to the constitution. In particular motions were passed which increase numbers on many of our committees to an odd number and to stop the ruling group from chairing them. That same amendment chose to increase the size of our Health and Wellbeing Board so that it includes 10 councillors rather than 2. Personally, I think that last amendment is a huge mistake and I made that point yesterday - the message it sends to the other bodies that sit on the board is not a good one, especially as those board members were heavily involved in discussions about the structure and had deliberately kept it small in recognition that large committees can become unwieldy - something that is being recognised as a problem in other parts of the Country.
The other amendment was one that committed us to a review of our political structures so that we move towards a committee system instead of the Cabinet system we currently have. Our group argued that the review should not just be focussed on the committee structure, but should have a wider remit to look at what political structure is the right one for delivering for the people of Cambridgeshire. We also wanted an expectation that whatever structure is recommended should be cost neutral; at a time when we are having to take significant sums out of our budgets I do not think it would be acceptable to spend more on the political functions of the Council. Some did argue that it should not cost more, but the Centre for Public Scrutiny seem to suggest otherwise, their report on committees said:
"It appears that the transparency and effectiveness of the system is reduced by cutting it back by making it cost neutral"
So we either have to spend more at a time when there is less money, or we have less transparency and a less effective process? Only time will tell.
The vote for leader was interesting. We had heard that one of the reasons the Lib Dems had replaced their leader was that they were unhappy with the closeness to UKIP that had developed over the last few weeks. Seeing them support their new Leader as Leader of the Council and then abstain when he was voted out of the process rather than support UKIP's preferred candidate from the Independent Group made that point perfectly.
As for UKIP. Well people's early views of what UKIP in Cambridgeshire are about should be guided by the fact that over the last few weeks they have been all over the press claiming that deals have been done in one way or another, speculation that I thought was really unhelpful, proved to be entirely without foundation.
Although this was fascinating for us politicians, I suspect it is of little concern to the people of our County, and I made the point yesterday that now is the time to move on from the political shenanigans and start focussing on doing things for the people of Cambridgeshire, that is what we are here for.
My pledge as leader is to do everything I can to be inclusive, but also to ensure the focus stays on the priorities of our Council.
Posted by Martin Curtis at 04:39