Neil Elkes, the Birmingham Post reporter and columnist, has an interesting article in the Birmingham Post at the moment. You can read it in full through this link.
The attention grabbing aspect of the article is a description of how Cllr Stacey, one of Acocks Green’s two Labour representatives on Birmingham City Council, and the Cabinet member for Commissioning, Contracting and Improvement, was recently ‘sent packing after only a couple of minutes in front of the partnership, contract and performance scrutiny committee.’ Cllr Stacey had failed to give the cross party committee a report on his work in advance of his attendance, just providing a ‘couple of sheets seemingly cut and pasted from his general job description on the Council’s constitution.’
The important issue here is how the Labour run Council is to be held to account, something that is vital in a democratic system. Later in his article, Neil Elkes comments on the controversy over the future of Full Council meetings, which opposition councillors are arguing have been kept in the dark by the Council’s leadership. Labour’s Deputy Leader, Cllr Ian Ward is quoted as defending the situation saying:
“My view is that the Council Meeting did not hold the executive to account. Cabinet members reports were only for noting and the debate is general knockabout stuff. The scrutiny committee is far more effective.”
While I have some sympathy with Cllr Ward’s views, he seems not to have been listened to by Councillor Stacey. After all its pretty hard for a scrutiny committee to do its job if the relevant Cabinet Member doesn’t provide a report on his work.
If the leadership of the Council don’t think Full Council is the best ways to scrutinise decisions and at the same time one of its Cabinet members can hold a scrutiny committee in such contempt, one is left with the distinct impression that Labour see democratic accountability as no more than an annoyance that can be avoided when the diary gets busy. It most certainly is not.
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