LETTER: Full return to open government

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It was good to see from the WSCT that, in the interests of transparency, minutes of HDC’s Advisory Group meetings are to appear online in future. It seems that we must thank Cllr Relleen and the WSCT for helping to expose the need for that, but that is only a start. Still to be addressed is the Cabinet system, consisting of around eight members.

This system excludes around 35 other (non-Cabinet) councillors from early involvement in evolving policy and subsequent key decisions. That may speed up decision-making, but it does not make best use of the knowledge and depth of experience of the other councillors and does not facilitate transparency or improve the quality of decision-making.

There is clearly a balance to be struck between those factors, and surely it must be time to review the benefits of a committee system. It would not be dissimilar to that in Parliament, where select committee members often display more diverse knowledge than Cabinet Ministers, who in any case are subject to a relatively high turnover.

Not only would that be more democratic and transparent, utilising the diversity and depth of councillors’ experience, but it should extend the group memory.

It might also make it more difficult for some to rush through decisions that have not been properly evaluated or debated. If anything, it is likely to result in better value of service for over 130,000 people in the District.

So councillors will hopefully debate the options openly, and facilitate a full return to open government. They have been elected to represent residents and it is not for the leader, or Cabinet members, to deny them this debate and this option.

Some may worry about losing their Cabinet Allowance, but that should not be allowed to get in the way.

PATRICK DEARSLEY

Northlands Road, Warnham

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