"A lot has been written on these pages in recent weeks of decisions taken by the Executive Committee of Allerdale Borough Council - a group of Councillors hand-picked by the Leader that make most of the decisions in the council, while the other 48 democratically elected councillors have no involvement.
That Executive have made, or delegated, all of the decisions on the £1m we’ve spent so far on the new proposed new sports stadium based on a flawed business plan. That same Executive made the decision to borrow £25m for the same project, which would have meant that the Labour administration would have quadrupled council debt under their stewardship.
The cost started at £15m, rose to £25m and this week will see the Executive committee approve a rise to £32m using a more detailed business case, but ultimately built on the same flawed projections. But rather than borrow as originally planned, which by their own report would have cost £42m over the lifetime, they’re looking to approve a disastrous PFI route that would impose a £72m to 95m lability on Allerdale tax payers over 40 or 50 years - while continuing to borrow as planned next year and use the money instead for other projects
They have lost their way. Lack of scrutiny by the committee themselves, and the threat of losing the party whip for speaking out, has made them complacent. As he has written in this very column, the Leader believes that “he and his Executive” speak for the populace.
The electorate are crying out for greater transparency. That is the foundation of local accountability and the key that gives people the tools and information they need to enable them to play a bigger role in society.
Allerdale is a large and sparsely populated borough and is tremendously diverse. It is a disservice to the population that all of the decisions are taken by the 8 councillors on the Executive, and that 48 democratically elected councillors have little or no part to play.
Executive arrangements were forced on the borough under the Local Government Act 2000, but the Localism Act 2011 reopened the choices for governance structures. A number of councils have taken advantage and changed their system of governance - and each lists democracy, transparency and cost saving as their main drivers for doing so.
In May, the Borough Council ward boundaries are redrawn and only 49 councillors will be returned. We need to use this opportunity to reboot Allerdale and move to a system that offers greater transparency – a system that is more inclusive of all councillors, regardless of their political persuasion. Better decisions will be made by working together, and by being open and honest with those who elect us.”