As a representative democracy, Derby City Council is broken!
The democracy begins and ends with an annual vote; there is little in the way of “representation” in policy and decision making.
Derby is a City of around 260,000 people with 180,000 being of voting age – on average 60-65,000 people vote in local elections – ~35% turnout. Each year that there is an election, 17 of the 51 Councillors stand for office – on average someone gets elected with 3,800 votes.
Derby City Council operates the “Strong Leader and Cabinet” model of administration. Typically the Party with a majority of seats would take the Leadership of the Council ; the Leader then appoints a Cabinet.
The Tories managed to secure the Leadership (Cllr Poulter) in May 2018 (4 year term) through a loose coalition with the Lib Dems and UKIP ( at the time).
With the exception of the budget and constitutional matters, 95%+ of the decisions that affect people in Derby are made by the Cabinet of 9 people – 9 Tory Cllrs…NOT the full Council of 51 Cllrs.
There are, at the time of writing, 21 Tory Cllrs out of 51 (41%) – 5 short of a majority.
The 9 Cabinet members represent 5 of the 17 wards (30%) and will have been elected by ~19,000 people (30%) of the population who actually vote – just under 10% of the electorate.
(The wards are Spondon, Oakwood, Chaddesden, Allestree and Chellaston)
In reality, the 9 people in the Cabinet don’t collectively make a decision. When a Cabinet paper is presented to that meeting then it is always unanimously approved, there is no public discussion and no room for dissent. The Cabinet paper is written by one of the Senior Officers, and presented by them. The Cabinet member comments tend to be “tokenistic” and “pre-scripted”.
There is a cross party scrutiny meeting that happens the day before the Cabinet meeting – its recommendations are routinely ignored.
The remaining 42 Cllrs representing the majority of the City, and its diversity, have no voice.
A Cabinet model is satisfactory in places like Nottingham where 90% of the Cllrs are from one party. Derby is a “hung” City; it has rarely had Councils where one Party has had a significant majority.
Most of Derby has no representation in decision making.
The only way to resolve this is by changing to a Committee System. In this model, cross Party Committees meet to make the decisions on all of the Portfolio areas. This improves representation and also brings to bear on that decision process a much broader perspective and range of skills from the 51 Cllrs
The Tories 2018 Manifesto stated:
“A Conservative-led Council will bring about a major change in the way the Council is run by moving to a Committee System and end the Leader & Cabinet model that is currently in place”
Work was undertaken to pursue this but it was shelved by the Tories who were beginning to enjoy the unfettered power of the Leader and Cabinet model.
The Leadership is now firmly in the grasp of the Poulter/Barker Axis – 2 ex-coppers, with demonstrably little experience in anything more subtle than a Police style, command and control, structure. In the last few weeks they have summarily sacked Cllr Matthew Holmes, one of the most capable people in the Cabinet, and coerced aspirant Cllrs to take roles for which they are ill-suited.
This will not improve collective decision making; it just strengthens the grip of this moribund cabal of Cllrs, with no credible mandate, who are steering Derby, recklessly, towards bankruptcy.
The opportunity exists to force a referendum in the City on a change from the Cabinet model to a more representative, and democratic, Committee System
The wording of this petition has been approved by Derby City Council’s Monitoring Officer. Please vote if you want a referendum for change – it requires 9000 signatures to mandate a referendum.