All change for councils?
GOVERNMENT plans revealed last week could change the face of councils in North Somerset forever. Under new laws due to go through Parliament residents could have the chance to directly elect the leader of North Somerset Council. Communities and Local Gove
GOVERNMENT plans revealed last week could change the face of councils in North Somerset forever.Under new laws due to go through Parliament residents could have the chance to directly elect the leader of North Somerset Council.Communities and Local Government Secretary Ruth Kelly outlined plans that would force North Somerset Council to choose one of three structures. When voting for a ward councillor, residents would also vote for:* A directly elected mayor who would then appoint an executive,* A directly elected leader and executive,* Or the council would vote for a leader who would then appoint an executive.In each case the leader or mayor would be elected every four years instead of annually and the structure that North Somerset Council would adopt would be decided by a council vote.Under the new proposals residents would also be able to hold their council to account through formal procedures. They would be able to write and demand action from their councillor through a Community Call For Action.If the resident is not satisfied they could demand the issue was discussed by a scrutiny panel or even the executive.More powers would also be given to town and parish councils that have quality status such as Weston Town Council. Instead of being restricted to spending taxpayers money on just certain projects like play areas, councillors could chose to invest in any scheme 'that contributes to the general well-being of an area'.Prospective MP for Weston Councillor Mike Bell said: "Although Weston Town Council seems to do a lot it is very restricted on what it can spend money on. "With these new powers the sky is the limit and the best decisions are made by people most closely affected by them. Similarly North Somerset will benefit from a stronger leadership model."Overview and scrutiny committees will also be able to look more closely at the actions of public bodies such as the police and the NHS. Councillors, like select committees in Parliament, could summon people and documents from any body paid for by taxpayers.If the plans go ahead there would also be an opportunity for two tier authorities like Sedgemoor District Council and Somerset County Council to become a unitary authority.This could mean Somerset as an administrative county would be abolished.