YORK’S ruling cabinet is eroding respect in the council and making too many decisions behind closed doors, it has been claimed.

Conservative councillor Chris Steward said the Labour cabinet was guilty of “anti-democratic” practices and said the local authority needed to be more effective, transparent and engaging.

Labour said it followed the same requirements as other councils.

Coun Steward said an all-party group should be formed to draw up recommendations to try to improve the way the council works and to “restore the respect for the council which the cabinet has done so much to erode”.

He criticised:

• The ruling party being allowed to chair scrutiny committees and Labour imposing whip instructions on scrutiny committee members

• Agendas for meetings being published late, giving inadequate time for other parties and the public to consider them

• The number of decisions being made in private meetings instead of in public and the amount of information being kept secret

• The rearrangement and cancellation of meetings at short notice He also claimed full council meetings were flawed, with discussion “stifled”, inadequate priority for motions to debate, and not enough opportunity to question cabinet members.

Coun Steward said: “Our motion confronts Labour’s dicatatorial approach where a small number within cabinet decide everything, without respecting councillors or residents. Whipping of supposedly independent scrutinty committees is one of the greatest affronts, but too many meetings are cancelled, information is not provided to other councillors and cabinet only ‘listen’ if it knows in advance the answer.”

Coun Tracey Simpson-Laing, Labour’s deputy council leader, said: “The council follows the same legislative requirements that councils do nationwide. Cabinet member decisions taken with officers are no different to ‘officer in consultation’ meetings taken under the Liberal Democrats, which is standard practice in other councils too.

“The way meetings operate is designed to engage the public on important decisions.

“There are occasions when work requires time to complete and on these occasions meetings are postponed to save money to local taxpayers. On petitions, the cabinet considers these very carefully, and responds in a way that protects the long-term interests of York residents and the secure financial future of the council”.