A Move to the Committee System for Folkestone and Hythe: 2023 Version

21 Jun 2023
Housefly [Attrib: USDAgov, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons]

For the third time in 4 years, Folkestone and Hythe Lib Dem Group Leader Tim Prater moved a motion calling for Folkestone and Hythe District Council to move to a committee system. He did so at the Full Council meeting of 21st June,

For the first time, he won, with the support of the huge majority of the council.

A new Committee System Working Group will now work to put together detailed proposals for Council to agree by March 2024, with the new system to take force from May 2024.

The vote was 26 for, 2 against. 23 Councillors are members of parties that have consistently supported the committee system for our council. Special kudos to the 3 Conservative Councillors who listened to the arguments and then voted for the motion, and against their leader.

In moving the motion, Tim said:

"It’s no secret that our new administration believes our council - and, most importantly, our residents - are better served by a committee system than a cabinet. 

"The reason is that the committee system hears all parties views in making key decisions but a Cabinet locks some out. 

"Over the last 4 years when I’ve been proposing moving to a committee system, its felt like being a fly aiming repeatedly at the windscreen in the hope that one day the fly will break the windscreen. The windscreen won in 2019 and 2022.

"Finally, tonight, maybe the fly wins.

"Much as I'd like to read you the speeches of the last twice I've moved this motion, I'll cut to the chase.

"Previously when I've proposed this change, it was to allow parties of all colours to have a share in the administration in a proportional way.

"I have been accused of self-interest in that. I've been told that people in opposition always say that. I've been told they always change their mind when they are in a position of power.

"So - here's the news. We're different.

"We believed in this as a minority.

"And we still believe it when we have the votes.

"It's called principle. It's called commitment.

"And it's called listening to the people that elected us.

"No group locked out. All groups get to have their say, make their proposals, have their vote.

"And that is locked in - legally.

"The last Council - prompted by my 2019 motion - did background work on the committee system and what might work for us. It shows its perfectly possible to have a dynamic, streamlined, inclusive committee system, with a limited number of committees and retain our scrutiny structure.

"Committee systems CAN have quick decisions, named responsible members, scrutiny AND democratic balance and accountability. It doesn't have to be speed OR democracy.

"Now I know there will be a lot of hard work to deliver this by May 2024. But with this motion, we can get to work.

"We will create a working group - one that meets in public - representing all parties. We'll get down to the detail, and bring back to this Council a Committee system that we believe will work for this Council.

"And there will be some compromise there.

"Tonight we have the easy job: we vote for the principle. We all like the principle. Its like voting for ice-cream: few will vote against that. Although there is always one. Sometimes six.

"But then we'll choose the flavours, and bring that back to this Council.

"And that's where we will need to work together. There are a million versions of the committee system. A million flavours. We won't pick everyone's favourite flavour. But I hope we can come up with something everyone can like, and accept its better than no ice-cream at all. We're ready to get to work.

"And yes, as I assume someone will pick up on this: it will cost some money. Everything does. But this is an investment in getting our rules right to win the prize we all want. 

"Principle. Commitment. Listening. All groups involved. No-one excluded.

"Council: please vote for the fly. Please support this motion, and lets get this done."

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