Haringey’s Liberal Democrat group is planning a radical shake-up of power if it wins control of the council following the May election.

The borough’s biggest opposition group wants to change the way the council is governed from a cabinet system to a committee system, devolve power to residents and make it easier for people to access council services.

Group leader Cllr Luke Cawley-Harrison says the cabinet model, which concentrates power in the hands of the leader and a small number of cabinet members, is “not fit for purpose”.

The Liberal Democrats also plan to invest more in environmental measures and youth services, build a wider range of housing, and scrap a costly revamp of Haringey Civic Centre in Wood Green that it has dubbed a “vanity project”.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service ahead of local elections on May 5, Cllr Cawley-Harrison said the cabinet model of local governance “leaves the majority of councillors, whether opposition or backbench, locked out of decision-making”.

“We think the leader and cabinet model is just not fit for purpose,” he explained. “In a borough like Haringey, where there is such mistrust in the council, and this feeling among so many people that there is very little engagement, the reality is with the leader and cabinet model you have ten or eleven councillors making the decisions for everyone across the whole borough.

“We just don’t think that has worked well. We would like to see the model changed entirely.”

Under the committee system, decisions are made by groups of councillors from each party on the council represented in proportion to their overall council membership.

The Lib Dems plan to set up area committees that would include residents, ensuring they have a “constitutional voice in decision-making within the borough”. These committees would have financial backing so they could spend money on improvements to their area.

A further plan is to put customer service centres in each of the borough’s town centres, allowing residents to access information and council services.

Cllr Cawley-Harrison acknowledged the council had recently been “ambitious” on environmental pledges but said his group wanted “far more investment in environmental issues” such as active travel, tree planting and “generally greening the borough”.

He added: “We would like to see a much more rapid rollout of active travel infrastructure. That is not just cycle lanes, it is far better pedestrianisation of our existing town centres [and] looking at whether we have opportunities to widen pavements.”

Part of the plan to tackle climate change would come through ensuring every report includes an assessment of the decision’s impact on the environment, which Cllr Cawley-Harrison said would lead to a “slow growth of environmental improvements to the borough”.

The Lib Dems intend to scrap the current council charge for garden waste collections, claiming it has failed to boost recycling, and ensure every council-maintained road has a 20mph speed limit.

As part of the North London Waste Authority, the party would continue to press for a review of the new Edmonton incinerator project, in order to establish whether there are cleaner and more environmentally-friendly alternatives.

A key Labour group pledge ahead of the last set of local elections in 2018 was to “deliver at least a thousand new council homes at council rents by 2022”. Although the council claims to be on track to have begun construction of 1,000 homes by March this year, Cllr Cawley-Harrison said residents would have expected the homes to be built.

He added that the Lib Dems would be unlikely to set an “arbitrary number” of homes for the council to build by a certain date, warning this would put “advance pressure” on the authority that could affect the quality of the schemes being delivered.

Cllr Cawley-Harrison said a Liberal Democrat-led council would take a “far more rounded, pragmatic approach to housebuilding” that would ensure a “full range of affordable housing offers made available in developments across the borough”.

At the same time, the group plans to improve the quality of the existing housing stock, particularly Homes for Haringey-owned properties that are “just not up to the standard you would expect”.

The Labour administration’s budget, which was approved in March, included a £46 million revamp of the Grade 2-listed Civic Centre in Wood Green. Cllr Cawley-Harrison said his group would scrap the scheme and reinvest the money saved in youth services, which could include opening a new youth centre.

The Liberal Democrats currently have 15 seats on the council, all representing wards in the more affluent west of the borough. Cllr Cawley-Harrison claimed several policies, including the planned improvements to housing, would benefit those living in the east.

He added: “We would also like to look at a new dementia hub, most likely in the east of the borough. That would bring public health benefits to an ageing population.”

The Lib Dem leader said the group’s planned area committees would benefit parts of the borough that are undergoing the most change, allowing people to have more of a say on large regeneration schemes such as High Road West in Tottenham.

“That is going to bring significant change to the area, and we want to make sure it is for the benefit of the area”, he explained. “Area forums and area committees […] would benefit the areas that are undergoing the most change and give them the voice to curate what they most want to see from these developments.”