New leader of North Somerset Council reveals reform plans

Cllr Don Davies.

Cllr Don Davies. - Credit: Archant

Major changes to North Somerset Council’s decision-making processes are being thought up, after its new leader outlined plans for constitutional reform.

Don Davies has revealed his intention to jettison the executive decision-making system used by the authority in favour of finding a new model which offers more transparency and influence for a 'variety of different voices'.

Cllr Davies, an Independent representative for Pill, was named leader at the council's meeting at Weston Town Hall on May 14 - its first since the dramatic local elections which saw the Conservatives lose power to a multi-party coalition.

He has wasted little time in steering the council in a new direction, swiftly turning his back on the executive system - which places much of the power in the hands of senior councillors.

He exclusively told the Mercury: "The idea is to be more open and transparent. I do think we are going to have to change the structure of the council.

"The executive model doesn't lend itself particularly well to a variety of different voices, politically and geographically.

"The people I was speaking to on the doorstep want more transparency."

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But how long will it take to implement a new system?

"It certainly won't take months and years," Cllr Davies said.

"We're going to be evidence-led in how we do it; I don't want to say next week 'let's go for a committee system, that'll work fine'.

"In my mind we have got to set a budget next year and we need to start talking about that quite soon in the autumn, so ideally I would like to have a good idea of where I'm going to be moving to on governance before I start talking about budgets. I can't promise that's going to happen, but I would like to get the governance sorted before the budget."

The leader also indicated he hopes the authority forges a better relationship with the public.

He said: "We need to better understand how we can interact with the public, and particularly town and parish councils.

"I do think there is a massive resource there and the door has been slammed in their face.

"My experiences of parish councils is they want to do things, and the council has actually stopped them doing things.

"A lot of town and parish councils have got money to do things for residents, but they have been stymied from doing it which I think is absolutely bizarre."