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A new decision making structure at Epsom & Ewell BC is a radical break from the traditional committee structure. It...
A new decision making structure at Epsom & Ewell BC is a radical break from the traditional committee structure. It is designed to reduce the number of committee meetings and replace then with a new simplified arrangement that will involve the community in decision making and will be based around the issues that are important to local people. Committees will be replaced by three new groups called commissions, designed to put the needs and priorities of residents before the administrative requirements of the council. The commissions will each be responsible for smaller specialist groups looking at different issues like law & order, health, housing and planning and these will include representatives from outside agencies and community groups that currently work alongside the council.

All local authorities in England and Wales will be changing their structure within the next few years. The government has recently published a Draft Bill that sets out three models that the government thinks councils should consider adopting for decision making. However, the Bill also allows for councils to implement their own preferred structure under certain circumstances, if there is sufficient local support. This is what Epsom & Ewell BC wants to do and its proposal differs from the three government examples in that it aims to push power and influence outward to the community, rather than concentrating it in closed cabinets or in the hands of an elected mayor. In addition, a scrutiny group will vet all council decisions to ensure fairness and propriety.

David Smith, town clerk & chief executive of Epsom & Ewell BC, says: 'This new decision making structure will be the biggest change to the way this council operates since its formation in 1937, and is the best option for change while still taking into account traditions and local needs. From what we see in the Draft Bill, Epsom and Ewell is well ahead in its thinking, and we share most of the government's objectives for change.

'However we do part company with their preference for the cabinet style of executive decision making or the elected mayor. We believe that we are going to develop a local model for structure that will take the best of the government's thinking and build on the best of what we have in place here. Once the council has agreed the way forward, we will be making sure that everyone in the community understands how we are changing, and when the Bill becomes an Act in 12 to 18 months, we will consult widely in the lead up to a local referendum which will give local people the final say in how they are governed, whether through one of the government's preferred models or our own structure that we will have put in place and demonstrated to be a much more effective alternative.'
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