Dorset referendum: voters back committee system, not Leader and Cabinet

Hint, hint East Devonians!

A VOTE for a change in the way West Dorset District Council is run has been hailed as a victory for “the will of the people”.

A referendum was triggered after the Public First campaign group gathered more than 6,000 signatures calling for a change from the council’s cabinet style system of governance to a committee based system.

More than 25,000 people cast their votes at the ballot box last week with 64 per cent of them backing the change of system.

A total of 16,534 voters were in favour of the committee system with 8,811 supporting the cabinet approach.

… Mr Grantham said the vote had succeeded in “sweeping away the failed cabinet system”, adding: “The council has to serve the public’s needs and make the best use of public funds.

“We trust that West Dorset District Council has finally heard the will of the people and will truly engage with us in greater democracy.”

The council’s leader Anthony Alford said: “Throughout this process one of the things I have been keen to ensure is that we do things to observe the law correctly.

“I’m very glad to say I have the utmost confidence we have proceeded with this referendum on the basis that confirms with the law and procedures and have gone through the referendum process very clearly and well.”

Cllr Alford said that the council had already agreed a structure for the new committee based system and it is expected to be implemented in May next year.

2 thoughts on “Dorset referendum: voters back committee system, not Leader and Cabinet

  1. In simple terms:

    Both the cabinet system and the committee system have committees, which ultimately report to and are approved by the full council, but in the cabinet system a small subset of the full council makes the policies and decisions without the remainder of the full council having a vote or any real say. According to Wikipedia, in a Cabinet system the full council is responsible only for agreeing the council’s constitution, electing the Leader, giving them a budget, and adopting the Local Plan – the Cabinet is responsible for all other policies and decisions, and full council can only raise issues or in extremis hold a Vote of No Confidence.

    They key difference is that in the committee system, committees are represented by different parties in proportion to the membership of the full council, but a Cabinet is appointed by the Leader / Mayor and is typically formed only or mostly by members of the majority party and minority parties have far less influence.

    Prior to the Local Government Act of 2000, the committee model was the only one that existed. The LGA abolished the committee system (which was seen as inefficient) and introduced 3 alternative models:

    Leader and Cabinet – where the Leader is elected by the members of the council who then appoints a cabinet of their choosing

    Elected Mayor and Cabinet – where the Mayor is elected separately by the electorate and they then appoint a cabinet of their choosing

    Elected Mayor and Council Manager – where the Mayor is elected by the electorate but there is no cabinet. This option only had referendums for adoption in two councils of which only one was selected – in 2007 the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act abolished this option.

    The Localism Act 2011 reintroduced the Committee system – it should be noted that EDDC Leader Paul Diviani was wrong when he said at Annual Council in May 2015 that they were not allowed to return to the Committee system (but then he would say that as the Committee system gives him a great deal of power).

    See Wikipedia: Executive arrangements ( )


  2. Would you care to explain the difference between a cabinet system and a committee system? And what will this mean in practice? I love the blog, but I think you would engage more people if you didn’t assume the same level of knowledge among your likely readership, for the inner workings of all political machinations, that you yourselves have.

    Keep up the good work.


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