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Squeeze on local democracy in the Square Mile

Entrusting a Governance Review to The Lord Lisvane KCB DL Freeman and Skinner, was an own goal. But it’s still surprising that someone who spent his career in the House of Commons proposes very little of democratic benefit for residents in his Governance Review for City Corporation.

The Noble Lord makes a number of proposals which, whether made consciously or not, would seriously damage the ability of Common Councillors, elected by residents, to properly represent their electors. He proposes abolishing Ward Committees, to which each Ward is entitled to appoint a set number of members depending on the number of its electors.

Limiting membership of the Policy and Resources Committee to business members completely ignores not only the interests of residents but the ability of their representatives. Suggesting planning applications should be considered by “panels” of members of the Planning and Transportation Committee might be acceptable but not preventing any member from voting on a planning application in or affecting his or her Ward without reason.

The Lord Lisvane has made proposals that would help extend diversity amongst both Aldermen and Common Councillors, including supporting current discussions to entitle the latter to receive remuneration. Other welcome proposals, especially relating to committees, including number, membership, and management should probably be welcomed. However, these may come at the cost of residential representation.

Having recognised that the direction of travel of City Corporation “requires muscular and disciplined organisation of business” he has proposed “fostering a corporate endeavour” to deliver this, rather than a party political system, which would also bring the change of culture he feels is vital. To be fair, the changes necessary to enable the recognition of political parties would require legislation but political parties bring both resources and discipline to enable responsible and accountable governance.

The best and most welcome of The Lord Lisvane’s proposals has been saved until the end. Thanks, in particular, to the sterling efforts of Labour Common Councillor, Natasha Lloyd-Owen (Castle Baynard), the Noble Lord has put both climate and green issues at the heart of his proposals. Not only has he suggested that climate issues should be responsibility of a single committee, he has also proposed that every proposal being considered in each committee should include a green impact assessment.

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