COMMUNITIES will get more of a say in how their neighbourhoods are run within weeks.

Rochford District Council has decided to fall in line with most of the country and adopt a cabinet system from May.

Under the new setup, nine super councillors will run most of the district's affairs, with the exception of licensing and development control.

There will also be three area committees, one covering Rayleigh and Rawreth, another covering Hockley, Hullbridge and Hawkwell and the third covering the rest of the district.

At a meeting of the full council on Tuesday night, deputy leader Keith Hudson described the move as an extremely important step forward.

He said: "We are moving with the times in putting this forward and speeding up the process of local government.

"Personally, I am particularly excited by the prospect of the area committee system which will be bringing local democracy back to the people.

"At the moment, I feel it is ridiculous people who live in Great Wakering have to come to Rayleigh for all the council and committee meetings."

Mr Hudson added the system could well need minor adjustment particularly during its first year, and it would be closely monitored by the council's review committee.

Only the council's four Liberal Democrat members voted against chief executive Paul Warren's proposals.

Liberal Democrat group leader Chris Black said: "This is a premature proposal and should be left until after the final outcome of the Government's White Paper on local government which hasn't even been to the House of Commons yet.

"I feel it is putting too much power into the hands of just nine people and it is the Conservative backbenchers who will be suffering.

"Not only will they no longer have any influence, but they will not be able to make a fuss about it either."

The council will also be approaching Southend and Castle Point with a view to setting up a liaison committee to deal with matters of joint interest.