Proposed Future Governance

Proposed changes from cabinet to committee system

In a meeting last July, the Isle of Wight Council agreed that it wanted to explore a change to its decision-making arrangements to that of a committee system. This was because most councillors felt that they are not able to fully represent the views of their electorate under the current leader and cabinet model.

A cross party working group of councillors was set up to help inform the debate. The group has looked at how other councils manage their decision-making arrangements, heard the views of people who have worked in them, considered proposals for a change and made a recommendation that the council should resolve to move to a committee system from its annual meeting in May.

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Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about proposed future governance

Current governance arrangements for the Isle of Wight Council

Structure chart - current IWC governance arrangements displaying reporting relationships

Proposed committee governance arrangements

structure chart showing the different committees proposed in the text of the page

What is the difference between the two decision-making arrangements?

In law, a council can choose to have:

  • an executive leader and cabinet
  • a directly-elected mayor
  • a committee system

The council currently uses an executive leader and cabinet form of decision-making. This is where a leader of the council is elected by a vote of all councillors at their annual general meeting after a local election has taken place. The leader then appoints councillors who will form a cabinet. There can be up to ten cabinet members and are usually made up of councillors that are part of a majority political group or an alliance of councillors that make up the council.

There are some decisions that can only be taken by all councillors at a full council meeting such as setting the budget and council tax, but this group of councillors are given executive powers to make council policy decisions. There are other committees that deal with any regulatory matters such as planning and licensing as well as several scrutiny committees that seek to influence the policies and decisions made by the council.

Currently, the cabinet is made up of these roles:

  • The leader (with responsibility for transport and infrastructure, highways PFI and transport strategy strategic oversight, and external partnerships)
  • Cabinet member for adult social care and public health
  • Cabinet member for children’s services, education and corporate functions
  • Cabinet member for climate change, biosphere and waste
  • Cabinet member for planning, coastal protection and flooding
  • Cabinet member for regulatory services, community protection, and ICT
  • Deputy leader and cabinet member for housing and finance

This approach means that there are identified councillors who are responsible for decision-making and who can be recognised by the public as being accountable. Because decisions are taken by a small number of councillors, the speed for decision-making can be quicker.

However, because decision-making is allocated to a small number of councillors there is the perception that this is less democratic.

Where there is no one political party or alliance of councillors that has overall control of the council as now, it can leave many councillors to feel excluded and not able to properly represent the views of their electorate.

The directly-elected mayor system is like the leader and cabinet system but a mayor is elected by the public during a local election.

A committee system is where the council is divided into several committees that make the decisions on different parts of the council’s business. Each of these committees is made up of a proportionately balanced number of councillors from each of the political groups and those not aligned to any of those groups. As with all models, some decisions can only be taken by all councillors at a full council meeting such as setting the budget and council tax and other committees that deal with any regulatory matters such as planning and licensing.

If the council is to change to a committee system, it is proposed that there will be a policy, finance and resources committee, and four service committees including:

  • children’s services, education and skills committee
  • adult social care, public health, and housing committee
  • economy, regeneration, transport, and infrastructure committee
  • environment and community protection committee

This means that more councillors are actively involved in decision- making and is seen to be more inclusive. Decisions are made collectively by committee members with shared accountability for the decisions made. This means that no one councillor can be held to account. Some consider this is less transparent than that of the leader and cabinet model, and that consensus decision-making can mean it takes longer for decisions to be made.

Where are we now?

In January 2024 the full council supported moving forward with work on changing to a committee system. Since then, the working group and council staff have been engaged with the preparations necessary for the council to make a final decision.

A progress report was put in front of councillors at the full council meeting on 20 March 2024 and they agreed to hold an extraordinary meeting on 1 May so they can make a final decision on whether to adopt new arrangements.

What still needs to be done?

Before councillors can decide whether to proceed to a change in its decision-making arrangements, they must first consider a detailed report that provides them with all the options open to them. This will provide information about all the different ways that the law permits a council to manage decision-making, their benefits and disbenefits, and any risks or issues that are important to consider. This report will be received by councillors at the extraordinary meeting of the full council on 1 May.

If councillors agree to change to a committee system, in law, they must make a formal resolution at the meeting and agree a date when the new system will start. If they agree that it should start immediately, these new arrangements will start from the annual council meeting in May, although councillors may decide to start at a later date.

The council must then publish details of the new scheme and make it available for inspection at its council offices.

What’s next?

Full council at an extraordinary meeting on 1 May will consider a report which sets out all the options open to them in deciding whether to proceed to make a change to its decision-making arrangements.

If full council decide to continue with a change, they must make a formal resolution (known as a Section 9KC resolution) to confirm the decision to change and agree a date when the new arrangements will start.

The council must then publish details of the new scheme and make it available for public inspection.

Preparations then start to introduce the change and help councillors, staff and the public become familiar with the new arrangements.