Councillors in Mansfield are elected every four years and since 2002 this has also included a directly elected Mayor.
The council’s political leadership has swayed between Labour and the Mansfield Independent Group. In 2011, a Mansfield Independent Mayor was elected despite Labour having overall majority. In the 2019 elections, the Mansfield Independent Group lost overall control of the council and a Labour Mayor was elected. Of the 36 councillors elected, 14 are Labour (in addition to the Mayor), 14 are Mansfield Independent Group, one is Conservative, six are Independent and there is currently one vacancy. There is currently no overall control of the council.
Action that was taken
No formal alliances between the different groups or Independent members were agreed following the election, although Labour agreed to support the Independent members election to Overview and Scrutiny committee chairs. The Mayor also operates an open-door policy with all members irrespective of group affiliation with a view to cross party working.
Having no overall majority makes decisions such as the budget harder to predict and facilitate. The Chief Executive, Hayley Barsby, strives to maintain relationships with all members and meets regularly with individual group leaders. “I am available and accessible to all members. Seven of our members are Independent or not represented by a leader therefore it’s important that they are able to approach me,” says Hayley. “It is really important to build a relationship based on trust with the members. It’s important that the Mayor trusts me and that we are able to work together as part of the top team. However, it is equally important that the opposition group leader, Conservative member and Independent members are able to raise their concerns and aspirations.”
“The use of overview and scrutiny committees is even more important in situations of no overall control and can ensure that all members are able to input into council proposals. The chief executive welcomes the constructive feedback and it helps facilitate decision making down the line,” added Hayley. In the case of the budget setting process, a strict programme of budget review meetings was scheduled to allow members to scrutinise the budget prior to any recommendation to the council. The chief executive took on board the recommendations of the overview and scrutiny process to try and ensure that all groups’ views were represented in the proposals.
How has the new approach worked
Since the election, officers have worked with all members in the delivery of services. A detailed induction programme was created to support members, both those who had previously been part of the administration and who may subsequently feel disenfranchised having become the opposition and those who were new to politics. Many members have their own personal manifesto pledges and officers work with them to assist them in realising those aims and objectives. By ensuring an open dialogue with members and relationships based on trust and action, members can be confident that officers are supporting them in fulfilling their roles.