Local Government Minister Bob Neill returned local leadership to Stoke today by dissolving the top-down governance board that has overseen the council since 2008.
A Transition Board for Stoke-on-Trent City Council was appointed by central Government in 2008 following the recommendation of an independent Commission to restore the ‘broken politics’ within the city. In 2009 this was reformed into a Governance and Transition Board with powers over service delivery.
In line with the new Government’s localist agenda Mr Neill announced that the Government has reached agreement with the Council that this Board should now be closed following significant progress. The Minister believes local issues ultimately need transparent local solutions and not permanent top down monitoring.
The Board has advised that the political situation in Stoke has stabilised and the Council’s relationships with local bodies, interaction with local people, and collaboration with neighbouring authorities, have all improved. Arrangements, relating to the Council’s operation with regard to pay, allowances and scrutiny have also started to change.
Mr Neill said:
I know the council let its residents down and has faced a number of challenges to its governance and service delivery in recent years, but we now agree it’s time to return power to Stoke’s elected officials. Local problems need local solutions and the people of Stoke need democratic and accountable leadership.
I want to thank the Board and its chair Professor Michael Clarke for their efforts in helping to return stability. Stoke’s councillors now need to prove that they can take the city forward by working together to give local people the local services they deserve.
In addition the Boundary Committee has recently published its final report on the ward boundaries. Its recommendations will lead to a smaller council with all, or predominantly, single member wards with all-out four-yearly elections. There will be elections in Stoke-on-Trent in May 2011 based on the new single member wards.
Notes to editors
1. The Governance Commission appointed in 2007 made 14 recommendations to improve the City including a Transformation Board to monitor the progress against the other 13 recommendations. The Transition Board was reformed as the Governance and Performance Transition Board to address the slow rate of service improvement in 2009. The Governance and Performance Transition Board now considers that the changes the Council has made, or which are underway, have addressed the issues related to the Council’s operation, eg pay, governance, overview and member development. The next scheduled meeting of the Board on 16 December will be the final meeting.
2. The Local Government Boundary Commission for England has recently undertaken a consultation on the size of the wards and the number of councillors per ward in Stoke-upon-Trent. This has resulted in a recommendation for 44 members rather than the current 60 and a system of predominantly single member wards although there would be five wards with two members and one with three. This was recommended by the Governance Commission. For more information: http://www.lgbce.org.uk/news-and-media/latest-news/electoral-review/local-electoral-arrangements-for-stoke-on-trent-finalised (external link).
3. Service delivery has improved, albeit from a low baseline. The Governance and Performance Transition Board recommends that this issue can now be left to the Authority. Doing so will re-enforce the localism message. The Government Office has been involved in the Commission and Board since its inception in 2007. The officials in the GO share the opinion of the Chairman that the Board has done as much as it could and that its continuance would add little value to the development of good government within the City.
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