The Leader and Cabinet Model is set out below.
The Leader and Cabinet Model
This would be a change in how the council is run. It is the way the council was run between 2002 and 2012 before the mayoralty was introduced.
Who is the leader?
The leader is a councillor who is elected by the other councillors to serve as leader. The fact that the leader is not elected by local voters is the main difference between the Mayor and Cabinet Model and the Leader and Cabinet Model.
The leader is elected for up to four years ending with the next local elections. A leader stays in office except for death, disqualification or resignation but importantly can be removed by a vote in full council.
If a council votes to remove a leader, it must immediately replace them with another councillor as leader. There is no by-election.
Who is the cabinet?
The leader must appoint a cabinet of between two and nine councillors including the deputy leader.
The cabinet does not need to be “politically balanced”, which means that all the councillors can be from one political party even if there are other political groups in the council.
Who makes decisions?
The Leader and Cabinet Model is an executive model of governance like the Mayor and Cabinet Model, which means that the leader has the power to make any council unless they are reserved by law to the whole council or to specific officers.
Examples of executive powers will be decisions to enter into contracts with companies to provide services, decisions to ensure our children and vulnerable adults are safeguarded, or decisions relating to buying or selling assets.
The leader may make the executive decisions personally but can delegate powers so that they are made:
- collectively by the cabinet
- by individual cabinet members or a committee of cabinet members
- by officers
In practice, the leader and cabinet will normally only make the most important executive decisions above a certain financial value set by the leader. These are called key decisions. Most decisions in the council are delegated to the chief executive of the council and its employees, called officers.
Under the leader and cabinet model, the full council of all the councillors only has a specific list of powers that are reserved to it for decision.
These include important decisions such as:
- approval of the council’s annual budget
- major planning and other policies
- decisions about elections, the constitution and the conduct of councillors
- decisions about staffing and terms and conditions of employment, including the appointment of the chief executive
- decisions about individual applications for planning or licensing approval.
Like the Mayor and Cabinet Model, the council may delegate its powers to committees of councillors and to officers. For example, most councils in England delegate decisions about planning and licensing to committees.
Committees appointed by the council must be politically balanced, which means that committee membership must seek to reflect the political balance in the council, as far as possible. Political balance is determined by a set of statutory rules that apply to all councils.
The council retains a Lord Mayor who chairs the council meetings, is the civic mayor and the city’s first citizen.
Checks and balances
Overview and scrutiny committees
Under the leader and cabinet model, at least one overview and scrutiny committee, but often there is more than one. Scrutiny committees have specific powers to review policy and the decisions of the leader and cabinet and may require the leader and cabinet members to attend at its meetings.
A scrutiny committee may “call in” a leader and cabinet decision after it has been made, which means that the decision cannot be implemented until a scrutiny committee has reviewed the decision and if it chooses to, can make the leader and cabinet reconsider its decision. Scrutiny cannot, however, block or veto a leader and cabinet decision.
Full council may also review executive decisions where it considers that the leader and cabinet has acted outside of the budget agreed by full council and or has acted outside a policy agreed by full council.
There are statutory officers that have duties to act in certain situations:
- the chief finance officer, known as the s.151 officer, must issue a report and may act where the council is likely to set an unbalanced budget or incur unlawful expenditure and
- the monitoring officer must report to full council where an unlawful decision has been made or is likely to be made to allow the council to change its decision and act lawfully
These powers apply to any decisions made in the council.
Open government – access to information and meetings
There are rules to ensure that there is press and public access to the reports and agendas of leader and cabinet meetings and a right to attend meetings where key decisions are made. The press and public can only be excluded from access where certain categories of information is considered, such as personal data, and it is in the public interest.
Examples of councils with the leader and cabinet model
Most councils have adopted the leader and cabinet model of governance. This includes all most other councils in the Liverpool City Region together with Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, and most London boroughs.
Some major cities with the leader and cabinet model also have a mayor who is the mayor of the city region or a combined authority of a number of authorities. As stated under the Mayor and Cabinet Model, this is entirely separate from the mayor and cabinet that the council could adopt. Examples are Manchester, London, West Yorkshire and the West Midlands.