Elected Mayor or Leader & Cabinet ?
The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 came into effect. Councils were required to change the way they were run. London Boroughs such as Hillingdon who are governed by a Leader & Cabinet had to decide whether they want to adopt a new version of the Leader and Cabinet model or have a Directly Elected Mayor. It gave Councils until 31st December 2009 i.e. over two years to complete the following process:
1. Take reasonable steps to consult electors
2. Then, to draw up proposals, which may be made subject to a referendum
3. Publish the proposals in the press
4. Pass a resolution to implement them at a specially convened Council meeting
Click here to see a step by step guide to the Act
Hillingdon did not follow this process. Instead they passed a formal resolution on 6th November 2008 to adopt the new Leader & Cabinet model. The report from Officers said that, as they were recommending the Leader & Cabinet model, no consultation with electors was required.
Nine months later they realised their mistake and put an article in the Hillingdon People Magazine saying that in November 2008 the full council had “agreed in principle” to change its arrangements to the new Leader & Cabinet model and asking for residents’ views before drawing up proposals. The closing date for submissions was 30th September. This was later extended to 15th October . No reference to the article was made on the front cover, in the list of contents or in the Welcome article by the Leader of the Council. No press release was issued. No mail out to electors in the Council’s e-mail address book was made. Councillors and Residents Associations were not consulted.
Most importantly no mention was made of the option to make any proposals subject to a referendum.
The consultation process could have been initiated as early as November 2007 and we could have been given over a year to discuss and debate the relative merits of the two governance models.
Complaints were made by Hillingdon Watch, Tony Ellis the Chairman of Northwood Residents Association, Cllr Tony Eginton and Cllr Mike Cox about the the inadequacy of the consultation process.
LBH’s Head Of Democratic Services replied saying “The consultation has commenced in good time... It is not entirely clear from the provisions of the 2007 Act as to whether consultation with the public is actually required. There has been confusion over this..”
To better inform the consultation process Hillingdon-Watch commissioned LM Research & Marketing to carry out a telephone survey of 500 Hillingdon electors. The results are shown below.
On 27th October the Council issued the agenda for its meeting on November 5th. A report prepared by the Head Of Democratic Services and the Borough Solicitor was attached. It reviews the consultation process and recommends what are in effect draft proposals for the future governance of the Borough. If approved the proposal would be published and then put to a final vote at a special meeting of the Council on 10th December.
Appendix 2 of the report reproduces the text from all of the consultation responses. It also summaries the results from the Hillingdon Watch survey. Ignoring the latter for the moment the results were as follows:
123 responses were received. The following preferences were expressed:
12 in favour of the Leader & Cabinet model
38 in favour of an Elected Mayor
71 in favour of a referendum (53 respondents asked for a referendum without expressing a preference for either model of governance.)
14 complained about the consultation process
The results from the Hillingdon Watch survey was:
47 in favour of the Leader & Cabinet model
158 in favour of an Elected Mayor
295 no view either way
315 in favour of a referendum
65 against a referendum
120 no view either way
For every 1 elector in favour of the Leader model 3.2 (Council consultation) and 3.4 (HW survey) are in favour of an Elected Mayor.
In the HW survey, for every 1 elector against a referendum 4.8 were in favour. More than 50% of those responding to the Council’s consultation were also in favour of a referendum even though this option was not mentioned in any of the Council’s publicity. It was only brought to light on this web site during the consultation period.
In spite of this the report recommends the Leader & Cabinet model. It goes on to say “ the low level of responses asking for a referendum to be held suggests that the Council would not be justified in spending a considerable amount of time and public money in holding it.”
The report quotes the cost as £250,000. However this is only £1.25 per elector and a fraction of the £20 million the Council lost by investing our money in an Icelandic bank.
The Act says that “reasonable steps have to be taken to consult electors” The report says “It is also for an authority to determine what constitutes a reasonable period for the consultation process to take place”. But who is the “authority” in this case? Who made the decisions to delay the consultation process, to make it so short and so muted? It was not our elected representatives. The only time our Councillors have been consulted on this was at the 6th November 2008 council meeting when they were told elector consultation was not required.
On 2nd November a formal complaint was sent to the LBH Chief Executive Hugh Dunnachie and copied to our Councillors complaining about the misleading information contained in the proposals provided to them prior to both the Nov 2008 and Nov 2009 Council meetings.
At the Council meeting on 5th November the Council voted to accept the proposals that it should adopt the new style Leader & Cabinet model. The current Leader, Cllr Puddifoot made great play of the fact that only 38 people said they wanted an Elected Mayor. Not surprising in view of the minimal publicity given to the consultation process. No mention was made of the fact that only 12 people had expressed a preference for the Leader & Cabinet model and that 71 wanted a referendum.
Mr Puddifoot repeated the claim in the oficers report that Hillingdon was the most efficient council in London. This has now been challenged.
The proposals were ratified at a Council meeting meeting on 10th December. Only Cllr Mike Cox and Cllr David Bishop voted against. Mike Cox said "The Council have conducted a flawed and inadequate consultation with the residents of Hillingdon. This process highlights vividly the arrogant nature of this administration who pay lip service to consultation and do exactly what they wanted to do from the beginning"
Click here for full text of his speech.
It would appear that, all along, Mr Puddifoot had no intention of carrying out a properly publicised and extended consultation process, or offer electorate a referendum, in case this lead to the demise of the present system and his replacement by an non party political elected Mayor.
Survey of Electors
Local Gov & Public Involvement in Health Act 2007
Step by step guide to the Act
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