19 October 2020
Labour Councillors Avoid Scrutiny
Opposition councillors on Norwich City Council have shared their frustrations at the unwillingness of the council's Labour administration to acknowledge areas where the council could do better and to improve services for local residents.
The comments were made after a scrutiny committee meeting on Thursday 15th October (1) which discussed the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and the council's response to enhancing community development following Covid-19. Toward the end of the two and a quarter hour meeting, recommendations were made by councillors to ensure that services are delivered in ways that 'build trust with residents' and to look at 'how mediation can work as a solution for breakdown in trust between the council and communities'. Labour councillors, however, refused to acknowledge that finding a solution for times when trust between the council and residents breaks down was necessary, so the suggestion of mediation was not recommended to the cabinet.
Councillor Jamie Osborn, a Green Party member of the scrutiny committee said:
“No one likes to talk about mistakes, but when you are running a local council you have to be prepared to acknowledge that things may sometimes go wrong, for example when people report antisocial behaviour and never see any action. It seems the Labour councillors have not learnt that skill and are unwilling to undergo scrutiny in case anything that is said makes them look bad.
“In the end, we all want the council to be efficient and well-prepared to meet the expectations of people in Norwich, but we have to be realistic about the times when that is not happening."
At a meeting of the city council's cabinet on Wednesday 14th October (2) an item on leasing vehicles needed for the council to provide services which it is going to deliver itself from April next year was only the second in the past five years to be the reason for a special dispensation regarding the scrutiny committee. Under normal circumstances, the scrutiny committee is able to call in an item agreed by the cabinet to discuss whether the right decision has been made. The decision to award a vehicle lease contract and delegate future similar decisions was deemed to be so urgent that it received a special dispensation to sidestep scrutiny and the opportunity for other city councillors to hold the cabinet to account.
Councillor James Wright, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group and Chair of the Scrutiny committee said:
"Scrutiny exists for a purpose in the council: it is vital to check over decisions and ensure that taxpayers’ money is being spent efficiently and effectively. It sets a worrying trend when the ruling Labour group starts to decide it doesn’t need its decisions to be checked.”
Further information from:
Councillor Jamie Osborn 07975 881585 email@example.com
Councillor James Wright firstname.lastname@example.org