Labour downgrades scrutiny again

The Labour Party which runs Sefton Council is afraid of anyone challenging their decisions. The following article explaining the situation was written by Cllr Iain Brodie Browne, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Sefton Council. Iain is a councillor in Birkdale.

By Cllr Iain Brodie Browne

None of us were surprised when the ruling Bootle Labour Party started to downgrade the routes that allowed scrutinising of their actions.

Firstly they took the chairs of all the scrutiny committees and filled them with their placemen and women - they even took the chair of Audit which even in 'one party states' is usually chaired by an opposition councillor.

Then they reduced the number of Area Committee meetings - you can see their nervousness because they do not have an overall majority on some of them.

Then the denigrate question time at Full Council by giving mono-syllabic answers or not answering at all (As a past cabinet member I am well aware that Officers will have prepared answers to the questions asked - and yes I know what to do, it is in hand). What contempt for the rights of ordinary voters whose elected representatives ask perfectly proper questions on their behalf.

The Area Committee issue is very important. Sefton is a dog's breakfast of an Authority where the towns and villages have very little to do with each other and often look to towns outside the boundaries of the borough. To cope with these issues Area Committees were introduced. When the Boundary Commission last looked at the desire of Southport residents to break away from the borough one of the 'trump cards' played against the proposal was that these differences would be better managed in future because -under our leadership- the council was moving to a 'devo max' solution giving the Area Committees responsibility for their communities. No more, the Bootle Labour party clings to all the power.

In Sefton Central the merging of Formby, Crosby, and the Eastern Parishes - centred on Maghull - into one committee is nonsense. There is no community of interest between Melling and Formby - and no transport links between them if the public wanted to attend. So now in this area instead of 18 meetings a year where effective accountability could have been exercised that has been axed to just 4 meetings. They don't like accountability.

The Labour Leader played his 'get out of jail' card. It is the wicked coalition that has made us save money . Now the saving is small and could easily be found. Let me suggest two ways; hold joint meetings with the Parish Councils and secondly let's look at the allowances paid to the Labour members chairing Scrutiny and Review. They cancel meetings at the drop of a hat and one calculation I saw last year suggested that their allowance amounted to nigh on £1000 a meeting. Cut the cost of Labour patronage and democracy and accountability will flourish.

This article was first published on the Birkdale Focus blog.