The Council's Decision Making Process
Chelmsford Council delivers a huge range of services, and it is important that those services respond to the needs of the community. Councillors act as the democratic link between the Council and the community it serves, to make sure citizens' voices are heard. This page explains how the Council and its elected Members make decisions that affect you.
How does the Council work?
All major policy decisions are made by elected Councillors, who then delegate the day-to-day running of the Council to its senior members of staff. It is the officers' job to turn the Councillors' decisions regarding the Council's policies and priorities into action.
All Councillors are voted in by local residents, and their main role is to represent their community, speaking and acting for local people. They also serve on committees of the Council, which take decisions on specific functions such as planning and licensing.
The Full Council is made up of all 57 elected Councillors, who all serve a four year term. Meetings of the full Council happen four times a year and are formal occasions. Full Council takes decisions on important high-level issues such as Council Tax and housing policy, and they also appoint the chairmen and vice-chairmen of the Council's committees.
The Council is run on a "Leader with Executive" model. Full Council meetings with all 57 Councillors are too large to make day-to-day decisions, so the Council elects a Leader, who in turn appoints a Cabinet of up to nine members, to decide on certain issues. The Cabinet meets monthly, and its recommendations on major policy decisions are presented to Full Council to be debated and approved. Each Cabinet member has a portfolio, or area of responsibility, such as Finance or Planning, and works with staff from those areas to implement the adopted policies.
As well as the Cabinet, there are a number of committees, such as the Licensing & Regulatory Committee and the Planning Committee. Most committees are based around specific Council functions and it is their job to consider important issues in greater detail. They can hear views from the public and receive reports from Council staff, in order to make their decisions or recommendations to the Cabinet and/or Full Council. All Committees must comprise an appropriate number of Councillors from each party, which is proportionate to the number of Councillors it has on Full Council.
As a balance to the powers of the Cabinet, there is also an Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which is responsible for reviewing the way in which the Council delivers its services. It is chaired by a Councillor from outside the main majority political group.
Only Conservative Councillors sit on the Cabinet, but the minority party also chooses a Leader and a shadow Cabinet, who act as spokespeople for their party on specific topics. The opposition is also represented on all Committees, and members from the opposition serve as chairman for the Overview & Scrutiny Committee and vice-chairman for the Audit Committee.
The Mayor is elected each May by the Full Council for the next 12 months, along with a Deputy. The role of Mayor is primarily a ceremonial one, and the person appointed is expected to remain outside party politics. The Mayor is the First Citizen of Chelmsford and represents the city at many events, but also chairs meetings of the Full Council. The Mayor is supported by a Deputy.
All Council meetings (Full Council, Committee and Cabinet) are open to the public, who are very welcome to attend and to listen to the debate.
Almost all of the Council's business is conducted in public. However there are some issues (for example, matters personal to the individual or where commercially sensitive information could be disclosed) where discussion takes place after the press and public have been excluded. This always takes place after the public part of the meeting.
Meetings usually start at 7pm, to give as many people as possible the chance to attend. All of the matters to be discussed at meetings are listed in an agenda, published at least five working days before the date of the meeting. All agendas are published in advance on the Council's website, or they can be seen in person by visitors to the Council's Main Reception.
All meetings (excluding the Annual Meeting in May) have a Public Question Time shortly after the start time, which gives people an opportunity to ask Councillors or Council officers questions or to make a statement.