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WESTMINSTER CHARTER DEFINES OFFICERS' POLICY POWER

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A charter recognising council officers' role in policy formulation and the importance of the executive power of com...
A charter recognising council officers' role in policy formulation and the importance of the executive power of committee chairman was approved this week by Westminster City Council.

The charter, initiated by council leader Miles Young, sets out how officers are involved in formulating the council's corporate plans and managing competitive tendering. Mr Young said the charter also formalises for the first time the part committee chairmen have in testing council policies. He said the chairmen's group came close to the Cabinet model of political control in councils which is one of the new internal management structures being considered by the government.

Past friction between officers and members in the city led to the resignation in July of David Weeks as leader of the council. Mr Weeks resigned after a row with managing director Merv Montacute. Their disagreement culminated in Mr Montacute seizing in April party fund raising letters from the leader's office. 'Officers must not allow the use of, or personally use, council resources for members' personal, business-related or party political matters', the charter says. It sets out strict limits for officers, and by implication for members. It says officers must not: Pursue policies rejected by members or 'usurp the prerogative of members to determine policy'; Become involved in party politics; Allow the use of council resources for members' personal, business or party political purposes; Leak council documents; Take any action for which they have no delegated responsibility without formal approval from members or a committee; Withhold information from members unless authorised to do so by the city solicitor. The charter is intended to supplement not replace, the national code of local government conduct made compulsory in the Local Government and Housing Act 1989.
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