THE last local government shake-up - the one involving cabinets and elected mayors - was designed to make the work of councils easier for the public to follow and, as modern parlance would have it, "engage with".

The logic was that unless the electorate could clearly understand the decision-making processes, and how they were affected by those decisions, nobody could expect the pitiful turn-out at local elections to improve. Streamlined councils with more powerful executives would switch us all on to the exciting world of local government. The long-winded stultifying old-style town halls full of strangely-named committees meeting at strange times would be no more.

Well, our good friends at Redcar and Cleveland Council, much loved by the electorate in those parts for the spectacular levels of council tax charged by the authority, have come up with a new committee which turns all of that good intent on its head.

The council long-since adopted a cabinet structure but has created a new animal which must represent the very antithesis of what the local government changes were meant to achieve. At time of writing the council's "Post Executive Overarching Overview and Scrutiny Committee" was in a meeting so we couldn't quiz its 13 members on just what its function was.

Spectator will bring you the explanation next week.

What's authentic?

NOSTALGIA ain't what it used to be - but then perhaps it never was.

The village of Hutton Rudby has plenty of claim to nostalgia with centuries of history recorded in the stones and bricks of the buildings around its delightful arrangement of greens. A group of the great and learned of the parish are in dispute with the local authority, declaring the latter intends to foist upon the former a past it never had.

This will come in the form of street lights - Victorian in design says Hambleton; rot, they were never like this in Victorian times say villagers.

Worse, as Hutton Rudby did not have gas until well into this century, it could never have had Victorian street lights.

Be grateful you are being ceded an historic past, says Spectator, or it will be steel columns for you, such as grace the streets of Victorian villas in Darlington. Yes, you will all know there is a credibility gap in the authenticity of your lights, but it will be less of an assault to the eye than "Georgian" doors and "Corinthian" pillars which feature on so many toy-town modern developments. Which leaves one wondering, whatever will the civic societies of tomorrow want to preserve?