HUGE changes to the way Wirral Council is run have moved one step closer, in what one member described as a "new era" for the local authority.

Under the current leader and cabinet model, most decisions are taken by a group of just 10 cabinet members before being voted on by the council.

Many of Wirral's 56 other councillors feel powerless in this system and a number of them have blasted it for leading to costly errors made in secret, an example often given is the council's embarrassingly shelved £26m support for the Hoylake Golf Resort project.

During a meeting on Thursday, Wirral Council's standards and constitution committee voted in favour of a new committee system, which it is claimed will lead to much better decision making involving all of the borough's 66 councillors and better consultation with the public.

The new model is set to come in after the authority’s annual general meeting on September 28.

This way of running the council will see committees made up of councillors from across the political spectrum, form policy in areas such as adult social care and public health, children and education, and economy and regeneration.

This is seen as especially important, as no one party currently enjoys a majority in Wirral Council.

Labour does have by far the most councillors, 32 out of 66 in total, but the all-important cabinet is made up entirely of Labour councillors.

Committees do exist under Wirral's current model and are all chaired by non-Labour councillors, but they can only make recommendations to the council.

Committees do not currently make binding decisions and when one party has a majority of seats on the council, as Labour did until last year, some see them as mere 'rubber-stamping' bodies.

Wirral’s seven new 'policy and services' committees will have the power currently held by the cabinet to make binding decisions which become the council’s policy, this is why the system is seen as giving more power to councillors across the political spectrum.

Under this model, the role of council leader will not cease to exist.

Instead, the leader chairs the policy and resources (P&R) committee, made up of themselves, the deputy leader of the council, the chairs of the other policy-setting committees and any other councillors which may be required to make it politically balanced.

The P&R committee will be the most senior decision-making body in the council and will have the power to adjudicate on the most controversial decisions within the policy areas covered by other committees.

As it will be made up of councillors from across the council chamber, debate and scrutiny should be much more rigorous than it was in a cabinet made up of members of the same party.

It is hoped that this will lead to better decision making and more transparency.

Speaking at Thursday’s meeting, Tory councillor Tony Cox said the new model is a “radical change” for the local authority and will help it operate in the “best possible manner”, while Lib Dem group leader Phil Gilchrist hailed a “new era” for Wirral Council.

Independent councillor Moira McLaughlin commended the achievement of all those who had worked to develop the new system.