Thursday, 9 June 2011

Council Leader 'sacks' scrutiny chair

Jan Powell, the Conservative Chair of Cornwall's Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee has just emailed all councillors to say that she has been removed from the committee - and hence will no longer be the chair.

Jan's email reads:

Dear All,

Following a meeting today with the Leader Cllr Alec Robertson I have been advised that I have been removed from HAOSC. I do not intend to recount at this point the reasons for dismissal and am seeking legal advice.

Kind regards

Jan Powell

The scrutiny function of a council is meant to be that of an independent critical friend to the administration. The major decisions (other than the overall budget) are all made by the Cabinet of just 10 people and so the only chance that most 'ordinary' councillors get to have their say is on scrutiny committees. Whilst scrutiny can call in decisions which it feels have not been made in the proper manner or with the correct evidence, the bulk of the work is in policy development.

The chairs and vice chairs of the five scrutiny committees are all Conservatives and Independents after the Lib Dems were denied any positions. Nevertheless, they have, in the main, been a pretty independent bunch who have acted on their own initiative and worked closely with their members to oversee the workings of the top floor bunker. The decision by John Keeling to allow an urgent discussion of the Council's payment cards last week is one such display of independence. Jan Powell was definitely one of the good people and obviously cared about what was happening in adult care.

Now it appears (at least on the basis of Jan's email) that the Leader has had a fit of control-freakery. The Conservative group vests all power in the hands of the Leader and so this sort of thing is possible, unlike in the Lib Dems where our committee memberships and nominees for positions are decided by the group as a whole.

If scrutiny is to mean anything on the Council then it needs to be seen to be separate and independent from the executive leadership. Rather than acting like a control freak who cannot accommodate dissenting voices in his group, Cllr Robertson should be welcoming public debate on council policies and decisions.

1 comment:

Juliet said...

Good news! Should hear the stuff Jan Powell has sent her friend to say to me and my family. Glad her true colours have been shown. Atleasts sewer rats have a backbone. This woman doesn't.