Apart from cumbersome committee names that owe more to management textbooks than the precepts of plain English, there seems little to object to in chief executive Alistair Buchan’s reforms to the SIC’s structure as approved by councillors this week. The separation of the elected leadership into political and civic or speaker roles is also good in theory; whether it is so in practice will depend upon the abilities and desires of those chosen to perform in the strong and professional manner sought by the Accounts Commission.
One thing, however, seems assured: with a great deal of business likely to be dealt with in the various forums, the council chamber is going to seem much more like a venue for rubber-stamping than a place of democratic debate. Not much change there, those who attend the odd, if important, meeting will opine, wrongly. The question is: will the desire for a stronger corporate identity and more level-headed decision-making end up snuffing out genuine discussion? Again, it will depend on individual councillors to spot the faits accompli – “we dunna have a choice” – coming through the system, to resist them and to suggest policy alternatives.
Mr Buchan continues to work on his restructuring plan, this time concentrating on the individual council departments. It is not work that he will receive herograms for. But council restructuring is only ever likely to be a beginning. The repairing of damaged and broken relationships between councillors and officials and between councillors and between officials, which will take time, is arguably more important. Councillors should not, however, expect to be popular figures over the next few years as they cut services. Standing for election, anyone?