The way Arun District Council is run could dramatically change: this is why

Arun District Council's Civic Centre, in Maltravers Road
Arun District Council's Civic Centre, in Maltravers Road

A proposal to scrap Arun’s current cabinet structure is set to be discussed by councillors.

Francis Oppler, deputy leader and cabinet member for corporate affairs, explained that a governance working party chaired by himself had recommended a move to the committee system starting in May 2021 by six votes to five on Monday night (January 6).

Francis Oppler

Francis Oppler

Until now, decisions had been made by a cabinet of seven councillors from the majority party, appointed by the leader of the council.

But with the Liberal Democrats taking over in the last local elections, they proposed changing this structure to a series of committees reflecting the political mix of the council.

It will now be discussed by full council on Wednesday, January 15, with strong opposition from Conservative councillors.

He suggested the change would be better for all members of the council as they would all be able to take part in taking decisions rather than just seven cabinet members appointed by the leader.

Mike Clayden

Mike Clayden

He felt the committee system would also give residents a ‘far stronger voice’ as they would be able to directly lobby councillors sitting on each of the committees.

Previously, he suggested Arun had been criticised for being too officer-led and the authority in the future would be more councillor-led.

He added: “It takes power away from the political parties, it gives power back to the councillors and residents and away from the officers.”

Cllr Oppler believed a move to the committee system was being so strongly opposed by the Tories because if they were to form a future administration ‘it will make it more difficult for them to push through their political policies’.

Deputy leader of the opposition Mike Clayden disagreed with this statement, adding that he felt there had been a ‘mad rush’ to change and that members ‘hadn’t had a chance to review the pros and cons of each system’.

He said: “As a former cabinet member, for any decision I made, beforehand every member of the council would receive notice of it and have a period of time to comment on it, so every last member of the council was consulted.

“It isn’t that I’m opposed to it, I just want more time to find out what is going on.”

Jamie Bennett, Liberal Democrat councillor for Rustington West, backed the change.

He said: “Arun has been controlled by seven cabinet members for the past 20 years, giving back benchers very limited say in decision making. Bringing back Arun to a committee system will restore democracy and give all 54 elected members the same control over all decisions.”