Yesterday, I have just been to my first council meeting; – it was the AGM of the Lewes District Council. The council voted in the chairman, the leader, members of the ‘Cabinet’ and the membership of the committees.
The political composition of the council is 24 Conservative, 11 Liberal Democrats, 3 Greens, 2 Independent and 1 UKIP councillor.
In an unusual move, the Conservatives and the Independents proposed and seconded an Independent for the chairmanship. Councillor Ruth O’Keeffe was duly elected. Cllr O’Keeffe’s partner Nick Robinson, was appointed as her consort. This was the chap who stood against me as a Conservative in the Kingston ward.
The deputy chairmanship went to a Conservative, Councillor Robbie Robertson. The Conservatives also elected Councillor Rob Blackman (Conservative) as the Leader of the Council. The Conservatives elected a wholly Conservative ‘Cabinet.’ The Cabinet is like a super committee, which deals with all the main policy and key decisions. When I was a councillor, some years ago, we didn’t have this system and in my humble opinion, I think it unfairly concentrates power in the hands of a few councillors rather than giving the whole council an opportunity to agree or disagree matters. The ‘cabinet model’ was introduced following the Local Government Act 2000.
Thankfully, there is a slightly different convention with regard to the committees and the Liberal Democrats have secured positions on a number of them. I am on the Planning Committee and the Scrutiny Committee.
This first AGM of the new council was more of a matter of formality due to the overriding majority which the Conservatives hold. However, there were a few questions raised by members regarding their particular ward issues. Daisy Cooper of the Liberal Democrats raised the issue of the increasing amount of litter in the Precinct near the Cliffe Bridge area. She is the ward councillor for that area in Lewes. The problem of litter in Lewes Town as in other placesd is clearly an important one to many people , as I know the subject was raised with me when I was canvassing on a number of occasions.
The future meetings of the full council this year are: 16 July, 14 October and 9 December. Members of the public may attend and ask questions.
Future meetings of the planning committee are: 27 May, 17 June, 8 July, 29 July, 19 August, 9 September, 30 September, 21 October, 11 November are 2 December. Members of public can attend these meetings as well and speak about any planning application of concern. All of the future dates for the council and its committees can be found at: http://www.lewes.gov.uk/council/16161.asp . Please do check this site first before arranging to come to a meeting to check that dates haven’t changed.
The Lewes District Council not only appoints its members to its various committees, but also appoints councillors to outside bodies. I counted 28 outside bodies to which the council appoints members, including: –
- South Downs National Park Authority.
- Greater Brighton Economic Board.
- Coastal West Sussex & Greater Brighton Strategic Planning Board