We will soon be launching our campaign to petition Spelthorne Borough Council forcing them to hold a referendum to make it more democratic.
Spelthorne Borough Council operates the ‘Strong Leader’ model of local governance where nearly all major decisions are made by the Council Leader together with his 6 personally appointed cabinet members. The remaining 33 councillors are excluded from the decision making process however the Localism Act of 2011 gives councils the choice of how they govern.
The committee-based system is more democratic, where all elected councillors have a meaningful say in decision making. We want to see a new model that takes the benefits that both models offer with the addition of proper public engagement, it's our borough and the residents should have a say in how it's run.
Few people in Spelthorne know how their borough is run. When you elect your local councillor you understandably think they have the power to properly represent you and contribute to the major decisions that affect your local community, unfortunately you would be wrong.
The major decisions are made by the Council Leader and his cabinet so unless your local councillor is a cabinet member, they have virtually no power to work on your behalf. Most Conservative councillors who are not cabinet members have little input and are told how to vote by the leader leaving our council under the control of a very select group who can act as they wish with no oversight.
Healthy democracy relies on transparency, accountability and oversight. The strong leader model makes it very difficult to engage with the council because it operates with impunity and not always in our best interests.
Another benefit of the committee system is the workload, due to the small number of cabinet members in Spelthorne each will be responsible for many of the Council's portfolios so overloaded with responsibilities which could mean some important issues do not get the attention they deserve while the remaining councillors are underutilised.
How do we change things?
The Localism Act 2011 gives local communities the power to petition their council to change their type of governance. If 5% of the registered electorate within Spelthorne sign our petition, this will force a borough-wide referendum asking the residents whether to change the system or keep it as it is.
The residents of Spelthorne have the opportunity to bring much needed positive change to our borough. Strong local democracy provides confidence in the local council and when they engage with the residents we can affect real change within our communities whilst bringing much needed transparency, accountability and oversight.
"It's Our Spelthorne" and we have the power to protect it.
We need 4,000 signatures which we think is possible with your support.