In Norfolk County Council, UKIP joined forces with Labour and the Lib Dems to remove the previous Conservative administration from power, in order to begin the process of getting rid of the Cabinet system, which has been strangling local accountability. It did not form a coalition with them.
UKIP councillor, Paul Smyth, gives his reasoning:
“The UKIP Local Election Manifesto stated quite clearly that achieving consensus was a primary objective of UKIP in local government. It’s what makes us different and truly democratic. Instead of posturing and political game playing, UKIP puts its voters and the general public first: “UKIP is unique in local government, because we do not ‘whip’ our councillors to follow party diktats, or toe the party line. Instead, we expect our councillors to represent the wishes of their electors at all times. That means it’s easier to get agreement for the things that really need doing.”
I don’t see how UKIP can fail with this strategy. It will give the three ‘mainstream’ parties a collective heart attack!
So what’s wrong with a Cabinet system?
It strangles the democratic process, as Jonathan Arnot* explains:
“Most of the people commenting on developments in Norfolk are probably unaware of the relevant facts. For instance, they may not appreciate that although the voters of Norfolk elect 84 councillors to the County Council, under the existing Cabinet system of government only 10 councillors (the Council Leader and the small team he or she personally appoints) hold executive authority.
In layman’s terms this means that a tiny group in the Council effectively wields power for 4 years until the next election. During that time, apart from some reserved powers such as agreeing the Council’s budget, the other 74 councillors are powerless to change Cabinet decisions. They can observe, comment on, object to or protest about them, but the tiny Cabinet might simply press on regardless. Hence, the infamous King’s Lynn waste incinerator project has progressed despite overwhelming political and public objections to it, and without a thorough debate by the full Council.”
* UKIP General Secretary