The Mayor and Cabinet Model is set out below.
The Mayor and Cabinet Model
This is how the Council is run now.
Who is the mayor?
The mayor is directly elected by local voters every four years and is not a councillor. The fact that the mayor is directly elected is the main difference between the mayor and cabinet and leader and cabinet models.
The mayor cannot be removed by the council but only if they are disqualified from office or die, or if they resign. If the mayor leaves office early, a by-election is held. The mayor must appoint a deputy mayor, who is a councillor who acts when the mayor is unable to act or on death or resignation until a by-election is held. The mayor can replace the deputy mayor at any time.
Who is the cabinet?
The mayor must appoint a cabinet of between two to nine councillors, which must include the deputy mayor.
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 mayor and cabinet model is an executive model of governance, which means that the mayor has the power to make any decision unless they are powers reserved by law to the whole council or to specific officers. Examples of executive powers will be decisions to buy and sell property, to enter into contracts with companies to provide services and decisions to ensure our children and vulnerable adults are safeguarded.
The Mayor 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 mayor and cabinet will normally only make the most important executive decisions above a certain financial value set by the mayor. 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 mayor 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, 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.
Even though there is a directly elected mayor, the council still retains a Lord Mayor who chairs the council meetings and can undertake civic duties as the city’s first citizen. The civic mayor cannot be a member of the cabinet.
Checks and balances
Overview and scrutiny committees
Under the Mayor 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 mayor and cabinet and may require the mayor and cabinet to attend at its meetings. The mayor and cabinet members cannot sit on scrutiny committees.
A scrutiny committee may “call in” a mayor 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 mayor and cabinet reconsider its decision. Scrutiny cannot, however, block or veto a mayor and cabinet decision.
Full Council may also review executive decisions where it considers that the Mayor 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 mayor 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 a Mayor and Cabinet
As well as Liverpool, a small number of councils have the mayor and cabinet model of governance. You may wish to review these to see how they work in practice. They include Bristol, Middlesbrough, Doncaster and the London boroughs of Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Lewisham.
Some major cities also have a mayor who is the mayor of a combined authority of a number of councils. Liverpool is part of the Merseyside Combined Authority, which has a different Mayor. They have limited powers and, importantly, this is entirely separate from the mayor and cabinet that the council could adopt and is not the subject of this consultation. Another example is London where Sadiq Khan is currently the Mayor of London but the borough councils in Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Lewisham also have their own mayor and cabinet model.