THE battle to transform the way Cheshire East Council is run and give more councillors a bigger say is almost over.

At Wednesday’s full council meeting – the first since this month’s shock election result – members on all sides of the council chamber voted to work towards ditching the leader and cabinet system from next May.

The cabinet is expected to be replaced by a committee system, which will see councillors from all political groups play a part on decision-making boards, subject to the changes being worked through by CEC’s constitution committee and agreed by full council.

It follows the ‘Change Cheshire East’ campaign launched by the Independent Group last year, who launched a petition calling for the change to make the council more democratic, open and transparent.

Cllr James Nicholas, independent, said: “We think it is fundamentally wrong that only eight of the 82 councillors can be fully involved in the decision-making process.

Knutsford Guardian:

“Even though the dynamics of the council changed on May 2, that principal remains.”

CEC slipped into no overall control following the local elections on May 2, which saw the Conservatives lose 19 councillors and their vice-like grip of the authority.

The Independent Group – which consists of 16 out of the 19 independent councillors on CEC – is now working with the 25-strong Labour group to support an interim cabinet for 2019-20.

Cllr Joy Bratherton, Labour, said: “I consider myself to be a democrat and I believe that decision-making should be an all-inclusive process.

“This is about empowering all Cheshire East councillors to work for the common good of all of its residents.

Knutsford Guardian:

“It will make the council more representative, more democratic, and will mark the beginning of a clean break from a very dark past.”

An opportunity to change to a committee system was blocked by Conservative members of the constitution committee last June, leading to the Independent Group launching a petition, before a special meeting on the matter in March also saw the Conservatives cling onto the cabinet system.

But now, the Conservatives – who will chair all scrutiny boards as the main opposition party – have changed their tune on the committee system.

Cllr Janet Clowes, group leader, said: “The independents have made their choice and we are happy to work with you to move these things forward.”

Knutsford Guardian:

Before Cllr Corcoran was elected as council leader earlier on in the meeting, the Conservatives wanted to cut down the leader’s term from four years to 12 months in the constitution – claiming this would help the council change to a new style of governance next year.

But Cllr Craig Browne, leader of the Independent Group, reminded councillors that the transitional cabinet with Labour is only due to last for 12 months, and changes to the way the council is run from 2020-21 could include changes to the leadership role.

READ > CEC elects its first ever Labour leader

Cllr Corcoran added: “I intend to give power away. I intend to see a committee system implemented next year.”