In England, local authorities are required to adopt one of three types of executive arrangements, having an "elected mayor and cabinet", a "leader and cabinet", or a "committee system".[1] The type of arrangement used determines how decisions will be made within the council. In councils which use the elected mayor system, the mayor is directly elected by the electorate to provide political leadership for the council and has power to make executive decisions. In councils which use the leader and cabinet model (the most commonly used model), the elected councillors choose one of their number to be the Leader of the Council, and that person provides political leadership and can make executive decisions. Where the committee system is used, executive power is exercised through various committees rather than being focussed on one person. Many councils which use the committee system still nominate one of the councillors to hold the title 'Leader of the Council', albeit without the same powers as a leader under the leader and cabinet model.[2]

Historical background

From the establishment of elected local authorities in England in the nineteenth century until the Local Government Act 2000, councils used a system of committees for decision making. There was no legislative requirement for any councillor to be declared the leader, with the principle being that all the elected councillors were equal in status. In practice, political groups had their own leaders, and when a council was under the control of a particular party, local media would commonly refer to the leader of the controlling party as being the 'Leader of the Council'. It was also generally recognised that the most powerful political position on a council was the person who chaired the main policy-making committee, which in most councils was called the policy and resources committee. Usually, the leader of the largest party would chair that committee. Some councils explicitly acknowledged the existence of a leader of the council, others did not. The role of Leader of the Council in that regard was similar to that of the British prime minister; the post had not been explicitly created, but gradually emerged.[3][4][5]

Executive arrangement types

Main article: Local Government Act 2000

The Local Government Act 2000 sought to strengthen public engagement with local democracy, and streamline the system of committees, introducing the models of directly elected mayors and cabinets, leaders and cabinets, as well as a third option for an elected mayor and council manager, which was only adopted by one authority and was later withdrawn. Additionally, lower tier authorities with a population under 85,000 were allowed to continue to use a committee system.[6]

Leader and cabinet

The leader and cabinet model was introduced under the Local Government Act 2000. 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.[7] 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,[8] 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.[9]

Elected mayor and cabinet

Further information: Directly elected mayors in England

The elected mayor and cabinet model was introduced by the Local Government Act 2000. Councils currently operating the mayoral model include:

Local authority Post Type Current mayor Party Established Next election Population
Bedford Borough Council Mayor of Bedford Unitary authority Tom Wootton Conservative 2002 2027 155,700
Croydon London Borough Council Mayor of Croydon London borough Jason Perry Conservative 2022 2026 386,710
Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council Mayor of Doncaster Metropolitan borough Ros Jones Labour 2002 2025 291,600
Hackney London Borough Council Mayor of Hackney London borough Philip Glanville Labour Co-op 2002 2026 212,200
Leicester City Council Mayor of Leicester Unitary authority Peter Soulsby Labour 2011 2027 294,700
Lewisham London Borough Council Mayor of Lewisham London borough Damien Egan Labour Co-op 2002 2026 261,600
Mansfield District Council Mayor of Mansfield Non-metropolitan district Andy Abrahams Labour 2002 2027 100,600
Middlesbrough Borough Council Mayor of Middlesbrough Unitary authority Chris Cooke Labour 2002 2027 139,000
Newham London Borough Council Mayor of Newham London borough Rokhsana Fiaz Labour Co-op 2002 2026 249,500
North Tyneside Council Mayor of North Tyneside Metropolitan borough Norma Redfearn Labour 2002 2025 196,000
Salford City Council Mayor of Salford Metropolitan borough Paul Dennett Labour 2012 2024 229,000
Tower Hamlets London Borough Council Mayor of Tower Hamlets London borough Lutfur Rahman Aspire 2010 2026 220,500
Watford Borough Council Mayor of Watford Non-metropolitan district Peter Taylor Liberal Democrats 2002 2026 80,000

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.[10] The only local authority to adopt the model was Stoke-on-Trent City Council, reverting to leader and cabinet in 2008.

Alternative arrangements

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.[11]

Committee system

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 power is exercised, alongside full council, by a number of committees, made up of councillors in proportion to their parties' representation on the council. Such councils may choose to nominate a councillor as Leader of the Council for the purposes of representing the political leadership of the council, particularly in relations with external bodies. If no leader is nominated, as was the case prior to 2000, the chair of the council's main policy committee may be informally deemed to be the council's de facto leader.[12]

"Hybrid" arrangements

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.).[13]

Arrangements for moving between governance options

Provisions exist in legislation for councils to move from one governance model to another.[14]


  1. ^ s9B of the Local Government Act 200, as amended:
  2. ^ "Local government structure and elections". 19 October 2021. Retrieved 20 June 2022.
  3. ^ "Past leaders of the council". Dover District Council. Retrieved 20 June 2022. Prior to the Local Government Act 2000, the Council did not formally elect a Leader of the Council but the chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee usually acted as Leader of the Council.
  4. ^ "Musical Chairs: Practical issues for local authorities in moving to a committee system" (PDF). Centre for Public Scrutiny. London. April 2012.
  5. ^ "Tributes to former Adur Council leader Robert Dunn". Adur and Worthing Councils. 7 December 2018. Retrieved 23 July 2022. He was Leader of the Council, in those days called Chairman of the Policy Committee, between 1984 and 1986.
  6. ^ "Local Government Act 2000". Retrieved 2016-11-02.
  7. ^ "Local Government Act 2000". Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  8. ^ ss9D et seq, LGA 2000 as amended:
  9. ^ Part III, LGA 2000 as amended:
  10. ^ "Mayoral Briefing". Archived from the original on 2013-12-16. Retrieved 2013-12-16.
  11. ^ "Local Government Act 2000". Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  12. ^ Gavaghan, Carl (13 August 2021). "John Clark, 'leader' of Ryedale Council and a politician for 40 years, dies in hospital". Scarborough News. Retrieved 19 June 2022. Cllr Clark was the chairman of Ryedale Council's Policy and Resources Committee, which made him the de facto leader of the authority after councillors chose not to elect a councillor to the official role of leader.
  13. ^ LGA/CfPS (2015), "Rethinking governance", Archived 2020-01-02 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ s9K et seq, LGA 2000 as amended: