Kingston Council leader Kevin Davis has announced plans to reduce the role of neighbourhood committees in the authority’s decision-making, saying the current system has failed.

But critics claim the move would result in democracy “no longer existing” in the borough.

In a series of sweeping changes to the council’s democratic system, Coun Davis has proposed reducing the number of neighbourhood committee meetings, and called for a minimum of 10 objections before a planning application of under 10 units is publicly discussed.

He also suggests withdrawing committee powers over certain budgets, youth services, traffic management and libraries.

But he does, however, call for neighbourhood committees to have their powers over parks restored.

The plans were outlined in a report by Coun Davis entitled Renewing Kingston’s Democracy – Putting the Resident into Power.

The report states: “Neighbourhoods have made the mistake of believing that “the committee” and its decision making is their role when in fact it is community engagement and capacity building that should be the role.

“Engaging the public was the whole point of the neighbourhoods and yet they fail to do that on a level that is consistent and understandable.”

The report also criticised neighbourhoods for not identifying and acting on enough local issues, wasting council money on officer time for smaller planning issues, under spending grants, making decisions on issues that affect the wider borough and their lack of vision.

A decision will be made at a full council meeting to be held at Guildhall on Tuesday.

The full report can be read here. 

But Liberal Democrat opposition leader Liz Green said although Coun Davis spoke about empowering and engaging residents, no one had been consulted about the plans.

She added: “Effectively it removes the decision-making from the area, its residents and takes it back to the council.

“He may talk about community leadership, but it’s about devolving decision-making. This is a move back to centralisation, a step backwards.”

Jim Taylor, vice-chairman of Chessington Residents’ Association, said: “We are disappointed. We will miss the opportunity to raise the points that matter to us to those that will make the decisions, particularly in planning.”

He said the number of residents attending neighbourhood committee meetings was not reflective of the number of people actually engaged according to the association’s 300-plus resident mailing list.

Bridget Walker, from Surbiton, said: “Normally anything affecting a neighbourhood would be on the agenda locally, be discussed, voted on and passed up to relevant council.

“What Mr Davis proposes is “do as I say” and with his ruling party there will not be enough people to vote against.

“I would have thought he is going against all local government rules and believe if the decision is taken on July 14 then democracy no longer exists in Kingston.”

For full details on the proposed changes visit