The Fairfax City Council has voted to regulate spending by the city manager by requiring the manager to get council approval before issuing any check for more than $50.

The council adopted the rule last week, partly in reaction to problems with former city manager George E. Hubler Jr., who spent $550 last January on a private health club membership without council authorization. Hubler resigned under pressure in September, and the council is searching for a new manager.

Council member John Perrin said the new regulation was intended to avert any recurrence of the problems that arose with Hubler. "Had there been a mechanism to require (Hubler) to seek council approval for a discretionary procurement, the situation would never have occurred," Perrin said.

William Scott, a council member who voted against the rule, said the council's action "is hamstringing the entire process of government. If you're going to hire someone (as manager) at a decent salary, you had better be able to trust him." Scott said the advertised salary for the city manager's job is $45,000 a year.

There is currently no limit on the amount the manager can spend without council action, according to city spokesman Tom Welle. He said the new restrictions also grew out of recommendations following an audit of city finances by the Coopers and Lybrand accounting firm.

In other action last week, the council:

* Started work on cable television in Fairfax City. The council voted to develop a contract with CTIC, an Arlington consulting firm, to design a cable franchise ordinance for the city. The city has decided to handle its cable TV franchise separately from Fairfax County, unlike other small communities within the county.

* Considered a proposed ordinance to require property owners to clear their sidewalks within 24 hours of the end of any snowfall or ice storm. A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

* Voted to change the name of Judicial Drive between Leonard Drive and Cupp Road back to Jones Street, the original name. Last month the council also restored the Jones Street designation to a portion of the road between Cupp Road and Joyce Drive. The only section of the street that will be called Judicial Drive is the stretch from Chain Bridge Road to Leonard Drive.