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Why Lib Dems might scrap County Hall cabinet system


The Liberal Democrats are today set to launch the manifesto they hope will win over voters in next month's Leicestershire County Council election.

Government care minister Norman Lamb is to help unveil the key details elements of the party's campaign in the run-up to polling day on May 2.

He is due to attend a launch event in Hinckley this afternoon.

The Lib Dems are the first of County Hall's three main parties to officially unveil their manifesto.

Group leader Councillor Simon Galton said: "We don't know for sure what the others are doing, but we work to our own timetable and we wanted to get it out before the close of nominations on Friday."

He said if the Liberal Democrats were to take over from the ruling Tories at County Hall they would look for alternatives to financial cuts.

He also said they would look to restore its reputation following the resignation of former Tory leader David Parsons after he breached codes of conduct over his expenses, and the subsequent sacking of deputy leader David Sprason for speaking out about watching an adult film on a council lap-top.

Coun Galton said: "The council has been rocked by a number of high-profile issues that have diminished people's trust in politicians.

"This election must draw a line under that and we must restore our good name."

He said the Lib Dems would consider scrapping the council's 14-year-old cabinet system in favour of giving more decision-making power to backbenchers.

He said: "The problem with cabinet is that it is a group of Conservatives sitting round a table and they don't listen. The decisions have already been made in pre-cabinet briefings in secret and they are just rubber stamped.

"We would consider getting rid of the cabinet in the long-run, which would be a way of wringing out some savings, and in the short term allow the public to take part in meaningful discussion."

He said the Lib Dems, who have 14 members at County Hall – 20 fewer than the Tories, would look to use the council's £99 million reserves as an alternative to cutting budgets.

Coun Galton said: "This is the biggest concern we have. Over the years reserves have gone up and up. Instead of going for cuts to services every time we should use those reserves. We think £60 million to £70 million is an acceptable level of reserves.

After the election, the Tories plan to increase council tax by 1.5 per cent, but the Lib Dems say they would not do that without consultation and not when reserves were so high.

They would also look at putting solar panels on council buildings to raise £1 million-a-year by selling surplus electricity.

Other policies include officering a free advice service to help business cut their energy bills and access to loans from a credit union style fund.

They plan to invest a further £1 million in highways maintenance.

They also say they would save money by investing in facilities to teach special needs children where they are currently sent outside the county at great expense.

Coun Galton added: "We have a strong track record of holding the Tories to account over the past few years and we hope to make progress in the elections in May."

Why Lib Dems   might scrap    County  Hall cabinet system

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