COUNCILLORS are at loggerheads over claims county council leaders are trying to ‘restrict democracy’.
Labour, Lib Dem and Green party leaders say Conservative Warwickshire County Council leader Izzi Seccombe has given all scrutiny committee chairs to members of her own party.
They say their role as opposition councillors is to scrutinise and hold decision makers to account – and claim their positions are being restricted.
Labour leader Coun Richard Chattaway said: “For the last four years Mrs Seccombe has been advocating opening up the council to Warwickshire tax payers. Now she has total control she seems to want to run a closed shop with limited accountability of her group’s actions.”
And Green leader Coun Jonathan Chilvers said: “There’s lots of evidence to show that councils make better decisions when there is a strong opposition holding decision makers to account.
“Our democracy works better when there are clear checks and balances and I’m disappointed that the Conservatives thinks that cutting these back is the right thing to do.”
Lib Dem group leader Coun Jerry Roodhouse added: “Best practice for local democracy is to allow the executive to be scrutinised and enable the public to question the controlling group.
“The action of the Conservative administration to secure all scrutiny chairs and tighten the screw on democracy gives them a blank cheque. We are committed to hold them to account and will do so.”
But Coun Seccombe hit back, saying previous groups had taken all scrutiny chairs themselves and that opposing parties were causing delays to decision making.
She also said Labour was offered scrutiny vice-chair roles during this council cycle but had turned them down.
Coun Seccombe told the Observer: “Warwickshire County Council elections just over a month ago returned a clear majority Conservative administration for the next four years. The challenges of running a minority administration have been clearly felt by tax payers with delays being caused in the natural decision making process. Where budgets have been agreed by one or other of the opposition parties, they have stopped implementation later on.
“The council needs to be run efficiently and with a clear plan for the next four years, every element will play its part and that will include the best informed scrutiny, providing checks and balance as it should.
“We are looking for people who will work hard and deliver good challenge and enquiring debate and I have the best people for the jobs. I have asked Coun Clive Rickhards, a Lib Dem, to be Chairman of the council for the next year, and he has been delighted to accept this post and will be a good chairman for Warwickshire.”