Major changes in local decision-making process proposed

St Albans district council leader Chris White.

St Albans district council leader Chris White. - Credit: Archant

It could be out with the Cabinet and in with committees under proposed changes to how the district council functions.

Residents, community groups, businesses and other organisations are invited to have their say about the plans, which are scheduled to come into effect in May.

The main change is the replacement of the council’s current Cabinet system, which has been in place since 2001, with one based on committees. 

At present, key decisions are delegated to a leader – elected annually by Full Council –and his or her Cabinet of portfolio holders

Under the alternative committee system, all the political parties are represented on committees in proportion to their overall strength on the council.

This means no individual councillor will have decision-making powers.

The changes are due to come into force after the Annual Council Meeting scheduled for Wednesday May 19.

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The main driver for the shake-up is a desire to ensure  all 58 councillors can be more involved in the strategic and operational decisions that shape the direction of the council, and to improve collaborative work between political groups.

Council leader Cllr Chris White said: “Having most decisions taken by a small executive may have some advantages, but it is clear that there is an appetite among many councillors for fundamental change.

“This move to a more consensual, collaborative council is being made at an appropriate time in my view.

“As a council, we are faced with the challenge of recovering from the pandemic which has badly affected our finances while carrying out many difficult tasks such as drawing up a Local Plan for the district.

“By moving to a committee structure, I believe we can involve more councillors in this important work and ensure decisions and policy initiatives have widespread support.”

Cllr Mary Maynard, leader of the Conservative group on the council, is not in favour of the changes.

"The Liberal Democrats, with Labour support, have changed the way the council operates to substantially reduce scrutiny on their decisions and effectively centralise control in the leader.

"They are making changes in May, with no idea how the constitution would be changed to support them and over 40% of councillors' views have been ignored.

"All of this in the middle of a pandemic, when the council is not delivering on service metrics, they are about to make significant staff cuts and they cannot make their budgets balance.

"They have presented a one-sided ‘consultation’ and hope it passes unnoticed. It is a disaster."

A report on progress will be made to the next Full Council meeting on Wednesday February 24.

Have your say on the scheme by emailing