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Monday, June 27, 2022

Row breaks out over “diminished” scrutiny of council

A green leader has been dumped from chairing the panel and replaced by senior Tory.

The leaders of the Labour and Conservative groups on Kirklees Council have rejected suggestions that a back-room deal was done over key committees on the authority.

It’s less than a month since Labour won three seats at the local elections to give the group an overall majority. This week, at the annual meeting of the council in Huddersfield Town Hall, votes were taken on the membership of committees.

However, there was an exchange of words over openness and scrutiny with the Independents suggesting Labour and the Tories had concocted a deal to determine who chaired the Corporate Scrutiny Panel, which is part of the council’s check and balance function.

Cllr Shabir Pandor, Leader of Kirklees Council has rejected the claims.

Green group leader Cllr Andrew Cooper previously chaired the panel. He has been replaced by Conservative deputy leader Cllr John Taylor following what Cllr Greaves described as “a deal” between Labour and the Tories.

However, that was rejected by Council Leader Shabir Pandor, who said “There are no deals”, and, later, by Conservative group leader Cllr David Hall, who called it “sheer fantasy”.

But Cllr Cooper appeared to allude to an arrangement and said he had “resisted” what he described as “attempts to interfere in the process”.

He said the council should seek a range of opinions and views from across the political spectrum and added: “I don’t like what’s been done, not because it’s affected me personally but because it has diminished the role of scrutiny. That interference is something that we’re all diminished by.”

Labour’s deputy leader Cllr Cathy Scott said she was concerned at the accusations that were being levelled at the administration. She said scrutiny “was not going to fail” because positions weren’t allocated.

She added: “That is democracy playing out. There’s no deal being done. Things have been done fairly on my part and on my leader’s part.” She accused Cllr Cooper of “playing politics” and that it was “a disgrace”.

Speaking at the council AGM Independent lead member Cllr Greaves said there was no suggestion of impropriety and that a deal between the Conservatives and Labour was “perfectly fine”.

Cllr David Hall called the claims a “sheer fantasy”.

But he added: “Doing a deal on scrutiny really risks undermining the independence of scrutiny and how it properly functions.

“What we don’t know is what the price is that’s been paid for it by the Conservatives. I think we need to hear what that price is because it’s fundamental to whether or not the Corporate Scrutiny Panel is going to be able to function properly.”

He said any discussions about the make-up of the panel should be in public, not in private.

Speaking after the meeting Tory group leader Cllr David Hall said: “The only part of Cllr Greaves’ speech which was correct was his first point: there is no suggestion of impropriety.

“It is a natural consequence of smaller groups being reduced to two or three members that they will lose places on key committees; they cannot expect to keep the influence they once had.

“There have been no secret pacts between us and Labour, and the suggestion that there ever would be is sheer fantasy.”

 

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