Changes to cabinet at Welwyn Hatfield Council

THE decision to add an extra member to Welwyn Hatfield Council’s cabinet has been given short shrift by opposition councillors.

Labour group leader Margaret Birleson and Lib Dem chief Tony Skottowe both criticised the move, announced by the Tory-run council at the last full meeting.

Cllr Birleson said: “Increasing the cabinet membership must be because they feel there is an increase in responsibility – which doesn’t make sense, considering they have reduced the number of chief officers at the council.”

Cllr Skottowe added: “I have never been keen on the cabinet government system that the national government pushed onto us willy nilly.”

The raft of changes sees the cabinet increase in size from seven to eight members.

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Cllr John Mansfield has stepped down as deputy leader for health reasons – as exclusively revealed by the WHT last month. His replacement is Cllr Alan Franey.

Cllr Mark Gilding also stepped down as the executive member for environment, with his place taken by Cllr Colin Couch.

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Additionally, Cllr Bernard Sarson has joined the cabinet as executive member for leisure and community.

Council leader John Dean said: “I would like to thank Cllrs Mansfield and Gilding for their hard work and stoic support.

“I wish them well and all the best for the future.”

He added: “The new structure of the cabinet means we now have an extra member and the portfolios of responsibility are more evenly spread.

“I welcome the new members and look forward to working with them.”

However, Cllr Birleson poured cold water on this.

She said the increased size of the cabinet would make little difference to democracy on the council.

“The problem with cabinet meetings is that it is just rubber stamping because members do everything behind closed doors,” she said.

Cllr Skottowe agreed, adding: “Full councils are little more than a talking shop.”

The cabinet-style system for local authorities was introduced following the Local Government Act 2000.

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