“Our council is broken at best” says ePetition campaigner

Almost twenty years after our Council introduced a Cabinet system in the year 2000, – Cllr Tim Prater on the 25th Sept 2019, put forward the following motion for the Folkestone & Hythe District Council, full council meeting to consider:

  • That this Council believes that a Committee System is appropriate for its Governance in the future and asks the Audit and Governance Committee to consider the issue at the earliest opportunity. If the Audit and Governance Committee were to endorse this view when it reports to Council, it should suggest an outline committee structure.

Cllr Prater and others wanted to remove the near twenty year old Cabinet System introduced by the Tories. For almost the last 20 years that’s been the Tories, but as of May 2019, they needed propping up by UKIP, and Cllr’s Wimble & Field to maintain power. Cllr Prater wants to move to a Committee system as this would give all parties a say in the running of the Council. At present just 30% of Cllrs, or just nine elected members, control our council and the fate of approximately 113,000 residents, meaning 70% (21 Cllrs) do NOT get a significant say in what goes on in our communities, yet you elected them.

Cllr Prater’s first motion was amended to read:

  • “That this Council believes that all Councillors should have the ability to participate fully in decision-making and that a range of governance options are available. This council believes that a cross party working group of all group leaders should be set up to consider the issues of moving to a committee system, or an alternative system, at the earliest opportunity reporting back to council”.

  • (Voting figures: 29 for, 0 against, 0 abstentions)

If perchance you’re now asking yourself what’s the difference between Cabinet governance and Committee governance at district council level here’s a simple and short answer to that question

Both the cabinet system and the committee system have committees, which ultimately report to and are approved by the full council, but in the cabinet system a small subset of the full council makes the policies and decisions without the remainder of the full council having a vote or any real say. According to Wikipedia, in a Cabinet system the full council is responsible only for agreeing the council’s constitution, electing the Leader, giving them a budget, and adopting the Local Plan – the Cabinet is responsible for all other policies and decisions, and full council can only raise issues or in extremis hold a Vote of No Confidence.

The key difference is that in the committee system, committees are represented by different parties in proportion to the membership of the full council, but a Cabinet is appointed by the Leader and is typically formed only, or mostly by members of the majority party and minority parties have far less influence.

Other responses to that question can be found ⇒ here and ⇒ here

After Cllr Prater’s motion, Folkestone & Hythe District Council moved quickly by seeking external advice. However, he and others soon realized putting any change in place by the May 2020 Annual General meeting was unlikely. Any change if it were to happen got kicked down the road and agreed that it would happen by May 2021 Annual General meeting. That was fifteen months ago. At that time, it was agreed work would continue, but the Council would seek to use the options it had control of to mitigate the problems of the exclusion of non leadership groups from the Cabinet.

On the 30th Jan 2020, it was announced that Cllr Prater as Leader of the two man Lib Dem Group and Cllr Whybrow as leader of the six person Shepway Green Party, were to become members of Cllr Monk’s Cabinet, effective as of the 3rd Feb 2020. Cllr McConville, as leader of the Labour Party did not and has not joined the Cabinet.

At the time of joining the Cabinet, both Cllr Whybrow and Cllr Prater made it clear if the change they sought – turning our Council from a Cabinet System to a Committee system  – had not been achieved by the May 2021 Annual General meeting, they would step down.

On late Monday evening (26th April) the Council announced the agenda for the Annual General meeting to be held on the 5 May 2021. There is no mention of the constitutional change sought by Cllr Prater back in Sept 2019.

So we ask the following:

1 – Will both Cllr T Prater (Lib Dem) and Cllr L Whybrow (Green) step down from the Cabinet on the 5th May, as both promised they would if the changes they sought were not implemented?

2 – Will they forgo the £10,866 pound special responsibility allowance they receive for being a Cabinet member and portfolio holder?

3 – Will they use Covid as an excuse for not implementing the constitutional change sought, and soldier on collecting the £16,000 plus allowances?

Now Cllr Prater is NOT the only person who wishes the Council to move to a Committee system rather that a Cabinet system.

Recently Ms Vallis set up Facebook group called “Petition to change the Governance of FHDC.”

Ms Vallis in conjunction with FHDC agreed an ePetition titled

‘Referendum on the lack of Governance, by Folkestone & Hythe District Council’.

In short they need to obtain 5% of the population in Folkestone & Hythe District. This percentage of numbers equates to 4,245 residents to force a referendum.

Only those who live IN the district can sign the e-petition.

The ePetition runs from 24/03/2021 to 30/06/2021. As of the 27th April, 163 people have signed this ePetition. We understand there is also a paper petition which has been signed by many more people.

The ePetition wants among other things:

  • We want to hold council tax at its current rate fixed for 2 years, not huge hikes each year that are disproportionate to the services we receive and afford. Shocking increase of 16.9% for Hawkinge Town Council, increase in FHDC council tax every year for last 20 years, huge loans left to the existing council tax payers to pay with no benefits.

  • We want to see vibrant communities, a thriving district economy, good, affordable leisure & sport facilities for the district and above all safe communities where we all have a part to play.

  • We want clean streets and improved waste collections in specific areas.

Ms Vallis explained her reasoning for bringing the ePetition by saying:

  • I have seen so many groups try and change things in our area- nothing seems to work and all falls on deaf ears – so I thought let’s go for the jugular and the route cause of the problem- the council needs to be run by all, not a chosen few.  Councillors are elected by the residents and they should represent the residents – not their own agendas which appears to be driven by greed. None will remember them in 50 years time but the aftermath will be there for 100’s of years – leave our green spaces alone.

She ends by saying:

  • Our council is broken at best!

Although not exactly asking for a Committee system, Ms Vallis and her ePetition is definitely asking for all 30 elected Cllrs to be able to influence decisions at Folkestone & Hythe District Council, which is what Cllr Prater also seeks.

Unless Cllr Prater and the Council pull a rabbit out of the hat in the next seven days, there will be no constitutional change as promised fifteen months ago.

It would be ironic if Ms Vallis could succeed where Cllr Prater has failed, if so, it would show that the people of the district truly do hold the power.

We urge you to sign Mr Vallis’s ePetiton.

The Shepway Vox Team

Dissent is NOT a Crime

About shepwayvox (1798 Articles)
Our sole motive is to inform the residents of Shepway - and beyond -as to that which is done in their name. email: shepwayvox@riseup.net

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