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‘One-party’ claim over scrutiny of City of York Council
A COUNCIL scrutiny group has become a “one-party state” and has failed to ask York’s city leaders to rethink a decision for more than two-and-a-half years, it has been claimed.
Green councillor Dave Taylor claimed political allegiance had neutered the work of City of York Council’s corporate and scrutiny management committee, which decides whether to ask the authority’s Labour cabinet to review key issues “called in” by councillors.
He said the last time an issue was referred back to the cabinet was in April 2011, when the Liberal Democrats were in charge. He said the committee could not function properly because five of its nine members were Labour councillors.
This gave the party a majority if they vote in line with the cabinet, although the committee’s chairman is Conservative councillor John Galvin.
Coun Taylor said: “The council’s main scrutiny committee cannot perform one of its most important tasks – holding the cabinet to account – if there is a majority of Labour members hogging it and never permitting an issue to be sent back.
“They always vote down any motion to send an issue back for further scrutiny. This is a denial of democracy, and it is disappointing that Labour will not only never change its mind on any decision, but will not even consider doing so.
“These are the actions of a one-party state and the public has to understand how autocratic Labour has become in ruling York.”
Coun Keith Aspden, Liberal Democrat group leader, said Labour had weakened rival parties’ ability to challenge their decisions by making changes to the scrutiny process in 2011.
He said: “It has led to the current situation where scrutiny is simply not fit for purpose – democratic reform and a change of attitude is needed.”
But Labour group deputy leader Coun Tracey Simpson-Laing: “Council committees are made up of the same party proportions as the full council and in May 2011 people voted for there to be more Labour councillors.”
When the Liberal Democrats had overall control of the council from 2003 to 2007, they had half the councillors on the committee, but Coun Simpson-Laing said that unlike now, they also had the casting vote of a Liberal Democrat chair. She said: “Labour has ensured the chair of this committee is from the opposition and there are no plans to change this. Opposition parties can always scrutinise policy, all they have to do is bring it to the appropriate scrutiny committee for a review.”
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