The idea of using secret ballots to elect the chairman of non-executive committees at Worthing Borough Council has been shot down.
Labour group leader Beccy Cooper described how the current system sees the Conservative administration leader choose committee chairs, with decisions then rubber stamped at full council by the Tory majority.
Instead the suggestion was that individual committees could choose their own chairmen by voting through secret ballots.
But Daniel Humphreys, Conservative leader of the council, suggested the move would be ‘regressive’ and a ‘step in the wrong direction for this council’.
He added: “I do not think there’s a solid reason for me to change the system we have.”
Charles James (Con, Durrington) added: “We are going down a slippery path if we are going to allow any secret ballots on any committee.”
But Cllr Cooper countered by arguing the current system saw one person effectively choose the committee chairs, in this case the leader.
She added: “If we are talking about democracy and having committees that can actually hold the executive to account I think this is a good first step.”
She also pointed out how during Cllr Humpreys’ time as leader they had not put forward a single non-Tory councillor to chair any committee.
Cllr Cooper asked councillors to give the people of Worthing a ‘decent chance of a democratic structure’ and not just vote ‘to keep your leader happy’.
Bob Smytherman (LDem Tarring) suggested that the decisions about committee chairs were actually taken behind closed doors at a Conservative group meeting before the annual full council meeting.
A vote on the proposal was lost by 12 votes to 19 with several abstentions from the Tory benches.