Friday, December 18, 2009

Labour says no to scrutiny by the Opposition

Wednesday's Council meeting included a motion tabled by my colleagues seeking a fairer political balance in the way Chairs of Scrutiny Panels are allocated. At present all the Chairmen of these panels, which are intended to scrutinise the executive, are held by Labour councillors. We have long felt that it would be appropriate if at least some of them were held by Opposition councillors.

I made a short speech on the subject (not short enough for some, I'm sure, as I was keeping them from mince pies in the Mayor's parlour afterwards), setting out the case for involving the opposition parties more fully in scrutiny. Many other Boroughs give the chairmanship of key scrutiny committees to the Opposition, although as the Great Leader Cllr Roberts pointed out, many Conservative Boroughs also keep these jobs for their own side.

Regardless of what others do, it should be good practice to share these positions out. They are not partisan roles, and some Labour Councillors do a good job in holding their own party to account. But as my colleague Cllr. Drury said, the problem with "critical friends" is that they may be friends, but neglect to be critical.

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