Bosses are proposing to scrap local democratic committees in Oldham and give their powers to individual councillors.
The town hall will decide whether to do away with 10-year-old local ‘district executives’ at the annual meeting of the full council on Wednesday.
Currently all the councillors within each district sit on the executive and can have a vote on decisions about how to spend their budget locally.
Every year each district executive is allocated £10,000 revenue per ward and £10,000 capital per ward from the council.
However leaders are proposing disestablish the seven district executives with ‘immediate effect’ and replace them with the same number of individual ‘district leads’.
They would represent Chadderton, East Oldham, Failsworth and Hollinwood, Royton, Saddleworth and Lees, Shaw and Crompton, and West Oldham.
This would be just one councillor per area, who would take on the responsibility of making decisions about what local projects or improvements could be funded.
However the budget given to the executives is also to be removed, and replaced with a £500,000 ‘local improvement fund’ for the whole borough.
To access this fund, new district leads would have to make an expression of interest and a formal bid with the support of a majority of councillors in that district.
But the decision about what schemes can proceed would ultimately be taken by a cabinet subcommittee, manned by the council leader Sean Fielding, and cabinet members for neighbourhoods and finance.
The report to this week’s full council states that district executives have been consistently underspending from their budgets, and ‘significant reserves’ have built up.
Of the £730,000 that had not been spent – the majority will be used to create the new improvement fund, but the remaining £224,000 will go back into the council’s budget to be spent elsewhere.
The district executives had operated as normal council meetings, with the opportunity to hear public questions and petitions – however this public function would be lost.
But the report adds: “When discussing district executive meetings specifically, feedback from elected members was that these meetings fulfil a primarily ‘business function’ for deciding on budgetary spend and do not fulfil their intended community engagement function.”
It’s also proposed to increase councillors’ individual annual budget, which can be used to support resident and community groups with events and activities, from £5,000 to £6,000.
This money is often used to meet short term, urgent priorities, such as providing room hire for a mental health workshop or repairing vandalised church windows.
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