Veteran councillor says opposition and backbenchers should have more power

Cllr Brenda Smith  (Pic by Jon Rigby)

Cllr Brenda Smith (Pic by Jon Rigby)

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A longstanding councillor believes Crawley Borough Council should give more power to backbench and opposition councillors.

Cllr Brenda Smith (Lab, Langley Green) said the authority would be more democratic if it returned from a ‘cabinet’ to a ‘committee’ structure.

She said: “I think it’s more democratic, I can’t pretend I don’t.

“I’ve worked under both systems almost equally.”

The cabinet system has councillors elect a leader who forms a cabinet which makes major executive decisions. There are also cross-party committees which carry functions including planning control and licensing.

Cllr Smith, who has served in the council for almost 30 years, said: “There are lots and lots of decision made by cabinet members which we are notified of and are not party to the decision-making process.

“Under the committee system, you had committees for housing, leisure, environment, statutory licensing, planning but members were proportionally allocated to those disciplines if you like and when a topic report came forward it was discussed by everybody and the opposition.”

Public consultation on whether the council should keep its cabinet model, revert to the committee structure or adopt a hybrid of the two closes on Tuesday (March 29).

Cllr Smith, chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission, said the survey was created after another Labour councillor raised the issue last year.

She said: “We want to make sure Crawley people feel properly represented by their elected councillors and that we are doing all we can to make sure our decisions are well informed by public opinion.

“The decisions the council makes for the town have a big impact on many aspects from housing and jobs to the environment and local economy; they genuinely affect the lives of every resident, business and organisation and it’s vital we get it right. Please fill in the short survey to tell us what you think.”

Visit www.crawley.gov.uk/pw/council_services_and_democracy/getting_involved

Paper copies are available from the Town Hall reception.

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