Scrutiny meetings put on hold will ‘paralyse’ council say Southend Tories

Southend’s new Labour-led administration has been accused of “paralysing the council” by pausing scrutiny meetings.

Three scrutiny committee meetings over the next two weeks have been cancelled after the Labour, Lib Dem and Independent administration postponed choosing the chairman of the committees.

The policy and resources scrutiny, place scrutiny and people scrutiny committees are designed to debate decisions made by the council and are traditionally chaired by opposition councillors.

However, a special council meeting will be held on June 13 to decide if the constitution can be changed and members of the administration selected to sit on the committees.

With the joint coalition likely to win any vote, it has been accused of attempting to “mark its own homework” by potentially avoiding voting any Conservatives into scrutiny seats.

Scrutiny committee meetings set to have been held on June 3, 4 and 6 have been “taken off the calendar”.

Daniel Nelson, Conservative councillor for Southchurch ward, said: “There are no scrutiny meetings. They have all been cancelled because they have got no chairmen. As it stands at the moment the administration has the power to make decisions through executive orders and the council has no means to scrutinise them,

“Cllr Cowan has shown he is very happy to delay the process further if he doesn’t get his way. Meanwhile the council is paralysed.”

Daniel Cowan, leader of the council said no decisions would be made without going through full council.

He added: “No meetings are being cancelled. They are being postponed until after the June 13 council. The only items on the agenda are items carried over from the previous Conservative administration, so if they think there are issues or problems with the papers that they brought forward, my question would be why didn’t they sort those out before they put them forward?

“We haven’t had an opportunity to put anything of our own on the agenda because these meetings were all set before the change of administration. There are papers coming forward around licensing and that sort of thing. It’s a very light touch agenda.”

Cllr Cowan said it was the administration’s prerogative to make changes to the constitution. He added: “The constitutions of over 60 unitary authorities like Southend who have a cabinet system do not have this provision in their constitution so we are aligning the constitution to common practice.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter