Last night at the Council meeting the appointment of committees and their chairs was on the agenda. It is pretty dry stuff-and yet beneath it there are important principles which if not observed undermine democracy .
These committees are the checks and balances on the Executive. This is how, in a mature democracy, the policy and actions of those in charge are challenged, scrutinised and reviewed. This is the mechanism that put a break on corruption and holds people to account. Failures in corporate governance often leads to bad decision making, wasting public funds and make corruption much more likely. Those who hold power need to checked up on, or as Lord Acton said 'all power corrupts'
Last night Labour's strategy of closely down avenues for challenging their actions continued. The took all the chairs of the Scrutiny and Review committees including the Audit and Governance Committee. They have reduced the meetings of Area Committees and render pretty well useless the arrangement for the central area of the borough. Questions in Full Council are not answered and the meetings of the cabinet are over in a few minutes-I think the record is 4 mins 10seconds.
When confronted with his actions Labour were struck dumb. Only the Leader spoke and he went off on a rant about the Government and how wicked it was. He failed totally to answer the question about why he was destroying the checks and balances on the executive. To hear Cllr Dowd speak you would believe that the government doesn't have a system of select committees or that if they did they were all creatures of the whips-like his Scrutiny Chairs. Well, just for the record here is a list of the Opposition led Select Committee chairs:
Scottish Affairs: Mr Ian Davidson LAB and Co-Op
Transport: Mrs Louise Ellman LAB
Business, Innovation and Skills Mr Adrian Bailey LAB Co-Op
Communities and Local Government Mr Clive Betts LAB
Environmental Audit Joan Walley LAB
Home Affairs Keith Vaz LAB
Political and Constitutional Reform Mr Graham Allen LAB
Public Accounts Margaret Hodge LAB
Science and Technology Andrew Miller LAB
Work and Pensions Miss Anne Begg LAB
Oh, and if you want to see how they deal with folk who have the audacity to ask questions look at the answers given under item 6 of the Council Meeting on 28/02/13