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Governance plans defeated

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Government plans for directly-elected council executives appear dead in the water following a House of Lords defeat.

Ministers suffered a 183-140 reversal when Conservative peers backed a Liberal Democrat amendment to remove the pioneering leadership model from the Local Government & Public Involvement in Health Bill.

Baroness Scott, the Lib Dems' Lords local government spokesperson, said in the debate that councillors had no understanding of how a system would work which could see the elected executive and the rest of the council under different political control.

"It is verging on irresponsible to have an option for governance in the bill that is fundamentally unworkable," she said.

"We would not think of running this country under a system whereby we had a Labour cabinet and a Conservative or Liberal Democrat parliament."

Baroness Hanham, former Tory leader of Kensington & ChelseaRBC, said elected executives would be like "asking Gordon Brown [to] leave all his MPs shafted, to be elected on their own, while he took what he thought was the cream of parliament for a separate election".

The concept of elected executives was championed byStockton-on-TeesBC. Local government minister Baroness Andrews disclosed that it was the only council to have proposed the idea.

The amendment which can still be reversed by the House of Commons potentially undermines a key element of last year's local government white paper which set out three options for local leadership.

Councils would have to either allow councillors to elect a leader for a four-year term, have a directly-elected mayor or plump for the directly-elected executive model. Most councils have indicated they will go for a council leader sitting for a four-year term, the closest model to the status quo.

AStockton-on-Teesspokesperson told LGC that the council's position had not changed since August when the council said it was merely "looking at all three options".

However, the government is insisting elected executives remain on the agenda. A Department for Communities & Local Government spokesman said the government was disappointed by the Lords defeat and would "consider carefully how to take forward the idea of this governance model".

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