Conservatives have scrapped the decision making committees on South Gloucestershire Council in favour of a centralised ‘Leader and cabinet'. These means some decisions will be taken behind closed doors by a single cabinet member after talking to an officer, while others will be made by a cabinet of just a few Conservative councillors.
Councils in Britain were forced to adopt cabinets after Tony Blair came to power, but when the Liberal Democrats were in Government councils were given a choice. In 2012, South Gloucestershire was one of the first in the country to return to open, democratic decisions made by committees sitting in public.
This time power will be even more concentrated in the hands of just a few councillors. Five years ago, we used to have a number of scrutiny committees looking at different areas of policy. This allowed people to specialise in particular areas of policy to scrutinise based on their interests and expertise. Now we will have a single scrutiny commission of 15 councillors trying to cover everything. The vast majority of councillors will not be part of either the cabinet or the scrutiny commission.