Changes to the Council’s constitution to give residents a greater voice in local decision making

We're introducing changes to the way we conduct our business and involve local people, giving them more influence in decision making and building greater trust in local government and elected reps.

Councillors at the Full Council meeting on Tuesday 14 July 2015 voted through a package of changes called ‘Renewing Kingston’s Democracy’.  The changes are designed to shift the Council’s focus away from formal meetings and the ‘apparatus of decision making’ to how it interacts with local people, businesses and partners to achieve a shared vision for the borough.

The Leader of the Council, Councillor Kevin Davis, said:

“We are making significant changes to the way the Council operates.  The way that local people want to engage with public services has changed but we have not kept pace with that change. If we do not now do this, disillusionment with local authorities will increase and it will be harder for us to do the jobs for our local areas that we were elected to do.

“Last autumn, we carried out the largest survey of local opinion this borough has ever seen. Our ‘All in One’ survey found that less than half of the population felt informed and even more worrying, only 25 per cent felt that they could influence local decisions.

Many other findings in the same report pointed to the Council not connecting effectively with local people. These statistics are well below the London averages for a Local Authority. We absolutely have to do something about this.

“The challenge now faced by local government means that we need to develop a different relationship with local people. And this is a challenge as much for local people as it is for us. We are changing the way we do things but residents and others must meet us halfway. The only way we can guarantee the future prosperity of our areas is if we work together more effectively with our residents.

“We currently have endless formal committee meetings where the agendas typically bear little relevance to the priorities of the Borough. They also offer little opportunity for the public to hold the Council to account. This needs to change.

“When Kingston’s current Neighbourhood System was set up in 1994, we were told it would bring about greater engagement with local communities. It has not. Most residents do not want to give up their evenings to attend a meeting that is difficult to understand or participate in. We need to find a way to invigorate the Neighbourhoods and connect better with local communities.

“Going forward, Neighbourhood Committees will spend much more time having an honest conversation involving local people around issues that really matter such as growth, community safety, health, education and local amenities.

“Another key change will see the introduction of new powers to give local voters the opportunity to sack their local councillor if they fail to meet clearly defined standards. This is modelled on the recall powers in Westminster but aims to go much further. In Kingston upon Thames it will be the voters who get to sack bad councillors rather than a committee of other politicians as it is with parliament.”

  • Other changes include the live web-casting of council meetings and the reinstatement of the annual State of the Borough debate
  • The core strategic business of the Council will be conducted through four new Strategic Committees: Treasury, Residents, Growth and Adults and Childrens
  • The format and remit of Full Council meetings will be changed to give residents more influence and opportunity for involvement.  In the future, members of the public will be able to put forward suggestions (motions), for resident-led community debates, concluded with councillors making an immediate decision on whether to accept or refuse the motion.  Councillors will also be allowed to use Full Council meetings as an opportunity to ask The Leader questions without prior notification, offering a more genuine challenge to the Administration of the Council
  • Further details of the changes being introduced as part of ‘Renewing Kingston’s Democracy’ can be found in the meeting agenda and minutes: Full Council, 14 July 2015