Power to the people

A few days ago I received an election flyer through my door. On the flyer it states:

“Move to a Committee system of governance in May 2024.”

But I would go one step further and offer two further solutions which would give more power to the people than what that party are offering:

1 – Create  “citizens’ assemblies”.  The London Borough of Newham has established a standing citizen’s assembly as part of its governance arrangements.

2 – Create a hyper-local system of local governance (like neighbourhood forums with powers and budgets) and with systems for co-production of decisions.

Either of these solutions would place more power in the hands of residents and hopefully generate more empowerment and inclusion in decision making and place shaping in our district.

At present Folkestone & Hythe District Council runs on a Leader and Cabinet system; which many believe excludes Cllrs from having a real say.

There are no real pros or cons to any governance model regardless of what many might think.

Governance operates differently in every council. What is most important is culture – the behaviours, values and attitudes that govern how individuals work together.

The powers to change governance option can be found in Chapter 4 of the Local Government Act 2000, as amended by the Localism Act 2011. Chapter 1 of the 2000 Act sets out that a council can opt to operate one of three governance options.

Executive arrangements” A Leader and Cabinet, where the Leader and Cabinet share
executive authority. 

Committee system” A system of governance involving politically balanced “service” committees of elected councillors making decisions collectively.

Prescribed arrangements – A different system of governance, approved by the Secretary of State following an application from a local authority.

The 3 Governance model options on a spectrum

How these systems operate will also rest on the council’s wider approach to community participation and engagement. And I want to see more devolution of power to allow different communities of our district, shape their communities in a way which suits there needs. 

The needs of those who live in Lydd and New Romney are not the same as those who live in Elham & Lyminge. The system we have now, one size fits all does not allow engagement and participation . That must change I believe and the solutions I offered at the beginning are a way of making those changes.

For Labour to make the change they propose they must follow a set legal process

Change can be made either by a resolution of full Council or by a referendum.

Will they offer the people of the district a referendum on their proposed change?

A referendum can be called by the Council directly or can be precipitated by a valid petition brought be an individual (or by powers held by the Secretary of State to require a specified council to hold a referendum on the Mayor and Cabinet system). 

A resolution may be laid at any point, by any councillor, and requires a simple majority to be passed. It only needs to set out the main features of a new governance system.

When the resolution is passed, the Council is required to publicise the forthcoming change – by making documents available at its offices for inspection and setting out plans for the change in a newspaper. There is no formal requirement to publish information online although the need to do this can probably be taken as a given.

There is a requirement for publicity rather than consultation, but councils will probably want to think about the need to ensure the final design of a new system reflects any public input.

Will any Cllrs  of any party who gets elected and who want’s a governance change, offer the people a meaningful consultation?

But how does it work in practice. Well change can only happen on one specific day in the municipal calendar. This is the day of the Council’s next Annual General Meeting (sometime in May of each year). Otherwise, the change happens in the course of the next AGM. This is the case whenever the resolution is laid. So here is an illustrative timescale, excluding the council moving to a directly-elected Mayor

Having spoken to Cllrs who have experienced changing their system of governance, their advice was put the resolution for a change of governance at least six months prior to the Council’s AGM. This those Cllrs said, provides enough time for officers and Cllrs to work together on the detailed design of a new system.

A referendum may occur as a result of a Council resolution (no guarantee), or may be precipitated by a referendum brought by a petition. If a referendum is held, and the result is for a change in governance, a resolution must be passed by full Council within 28 days. This would mean that a referendum would result in a change in governance the following year. 

The wording used in a referendum question is set out in legislation. Councils have no discretion over what wording is used. And the wording is:

How would you like the District of Folkestone & Hythe to be run?

A) By a leader who is an elected councillor chosen by a vote of the other elected councillors of the party with an outright majority. This would be a change from how the council is run now.

B) By one or more committees made up of elected Councillors. This would be a change from how the council is run now.

If change happens by way of a resolution alone, the council is effectively “locked in” to the new governance arrangement for a period of five years, starting from the date the resolution is passed. This is the route with no consultation and no referendum; which the party’s flyer I received is very quiet on.

The longer route, resolution and referendum offers more public participation.

The above though is not enough. My solutions are as I said at the beginning, solutions which give much more power to you, the people.

1 – Create  “citizens’ assemblies”.  The London Borough of Newham has established a standing citizen’s assembly as part of its governance arrangements.

2 – Create a hyper-local system of local governance (like neighbourhood forums with powers and budgets) and with systems for co-production of decisions.

Hence a Vote for Rylands on May 4 is vote to empower all of our wonderful communities across our fantastic district, and a reason to be cheerful

Promoted & Printed by Bryan Rylands Flat D Avenay Court, Sandgate Road Folkestone CT20 2LN


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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

1 Comment on Power to the people

  1. Neighbourhood forums represent knowledge and experience by people directly and the highest level of intelligent information gathering in order to act effectively. The danger in all proposals is high jacking by individuals or groups acting for their own, frequently unseen, interests. That said, such behaviour runs through every form of government in every country. Shepway Executive is an example of a group risen in power yet detached from the reality of ordinary people, hence we see increasing decline reflective in many areas to that of third world countries and over crowded population with a struggling medical system.
    Added to over crowding with failing services, we must address serious water quality issues; clearly, the current format is sliding back towards days past of cholera out breaks.
    A concerned Executive with a moral compass would have considered the present debilitated condition unacceptable, acting accordingly.
    It was not like this 40 years ago, it was better, and the people know it.
    Regrettably, it appears we are in a position where local political machinery needs to evolve, the old model is broken, and ordinary people, faced with a voting system insufficient to meet today’s demands effectively; sensible changes are urgently required.

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