In England, local authorities are required to adopt one of three types of executive arrangements, which govern how decisions will be made within the council. Before the adoption of the Localism Act 2011 there were two principal modes of executive arrangement, the "leader and cabinet" and "elected mayor and cabinet" models. A third option "elected mayor and council manager" was withdrawn in 2007. Since 2012, principal authorities have been allowed to adopt the "committee system" form of governance.
Leader and cabinet
It consists of the leader and the cabinet itself, which is usually formed by the majority party in the local authority, where there is one, or by a coalition which comes together to elect a leader. The council elects the leader, and the leader appoints the other members of the cabinet. Each cabinet member holds a separate portfolio, such as housing, finance, economic development, or education. Decisions may be delegated to the individual members, or taken by the cabinet as a whole. These decisions are scrutinised by one or more overview and scrutiny committees, which may be dedicated to one or more service areas.
The leader and cabinet are responsible for policies, plans, and strategies, which must be within the budget adopted by the full council. These will be reported to the overall "full" council, which is convened to bring together all elected members of the authority at regular meetings. One or more overview and scrutiny committees holds the cabinet to account for its decisions and is responsible that the democratic checks and balances are maintained.
The principal executive decisions taken by the council as a whole are to appoint the leader, to approve the leader's budget, to adopt development plan documents, and to agree on the council's constitution. Beyond that, it may raise issues, urge the leader, cabinet, or cabinet members to take actions, or pass a vote of no confidence in the leader.
In addition, the compliance of councillors with their code of conduct may be overseen by a standards committee, although since the coming into effect of the Localism Act 2011 this can be dispensed with and its functions can be delegated to a monitoring officer.
Elected mayor and cabinet
The elected mayor and cabinet model was introduced by the Local Government Act 2000. Councils currently operating the Mayoral model include:
Elected mayor and council manager
The elected mayor and council manager option was also introduced by the Local Government Act 2000, but withdrawn by the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007. The only local authority to adopt the model was Stoke-on-Trent City Council, reverting to leader and cabinet in 2008.
Section 31 of the Local Government Act 2000 allowed district councils in two tier areas, with populations under 85,000, to propose alternative executive arrangements. This was superseded by the changes made by the Localism Act 2011 and the renewed availability of the committee system to all local authorities.
Under the Localism Act 2011, principal authorities (such as unitary authorities, county councils, and district councils) were allowed to return to decision-making by Committees, the method of local government administration for all councils prior to 2000. Under this model, a Council elects a leader but power is exercised, alongside full Council, by a number of committees, made up of Councillors in proportion to their parties' representation on the Council.
Some councils operate governance arrangements which have the characteristics of more than one formal governance option. For example, an authority operating under conventional executive arrangements but whose overview and scrutiny committees operate in a manner similar to those under the committee system (developing policy, taking an active part in the decision-making process, etc.).
Arrangements for moving between governance options
Provisions exist in legislation for councils to move from one governance model to another.
- s9B of the Local Government Act 200, as amended: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/22/part/1A/chapter/1
- Centre for Public Scrutiny (2012), "Musical chairs", https://www.cfps.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Musical-Chairs.pdf
- "Local Government Act 2000". Legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 2016-11-02.
- ss9D et seq, LGA 2000 as amended: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/22/part/1A/chapter/2/crossheading/executive-functions
- Part III, LGA 2000 as amended: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/22/contents
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-12-16. Retrieved 2013-12-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- LGA/CfPS (2015), "Rethinking governance", https://www.cfps.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Rethinking-Governance.pdf
- s9K et seq, LGA 2000 as amended: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2011/20/schedule/2/part/1/enacted