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Top Lib Dem demands debate on Brentwood council shake-up

August 20, 2008 8:22 AM
By Brentwood Gazette reporter in Brentwood Gazette

THE leader of the Liberal Democrats has called for a public debate to head off a "threat" to local democracy.

Cllr David Kendall's concerns follow proposals by the Tory administration to replace Brentwood council's committee structure with a cabinet-style system.

The Lib Dem leader said: "The issue is whether the cabinet system is right for Brentwood.

"Residents should be given the opportunity to hear these views and question the party leaders on this very important issue before a final decision is made."

However, council leader Cllr Brandon Lewis said the call was "farcical", saying Cllr Kendall was already aware of his plans for a public consultation after a meeting between himself, Cllr Kendall and Labour leader Mike Le-Surf.

He said: "When we go through the process they will be involved.

"We will be having a non-political stakeholders' meeting with key groups."

The Lib Dems want to keep the current system of local government in Brentwood, which they say allows members from all parties to engage in open debate in all committee meetings.

Rather than a public debate, a consultation paper is to be sent to all 70,000 residents to allow people to vote on changes in the system.

Cllr Lewis said: "It should be complete by next week. Every single resident will be involved and we will let people know all the implications.

"One benefit of a cabinet is that ... it's more accountable, you can't hide. And the process is more democratic as there is a cross-party decision."

He also said a cabinet system would improve efficiency.