The Basildon Council Labour Group has been forced to place councillors on the Conservative Administration’s two new Scrutiny Committees. The Committee System of governance that Basildon Borough Council operates under gives all councillors a say in how the council is run and allows opposition councillors the opportunity to scrutinise all decisions made at each meeting as they happen. Under the previous cabinet system many decisions were made by a handful of councillors and the only way to challenge them by opposition councillors was to refer them to a scrutiny committee.
Despite now operating under the Committee System, the Basildon Conservatives have chosen to put in place unnecessary scrutiny committees which in turn require allowances to be paid to a conservative chair and vice chair as well as additional costs in council officer time to prepare reports and attend the meetings. This comes on top of the Conservatives expanding the committee system to eight committees from the previous four committees operated under the Labour Led administration last year. Labour have to date refused to sit on the unnecessary scrutiny committees.
However, the Basildon Conservatives have attempted to remove all Scrutiny from the regular committee meetings. Says Basildon Labour’s Deputy Leader Cllr David Burton-Sampson “During Committee Meetings we have seen opposition councillors silenced by the committee chairs when attempting to scrutinise decisions. This was particularly evidence at the last sitting of the Policy, Oversight and Strategy Committee when the council leader, Cllr Andrew Baggott consistently turned off opposition members microphones when he didn’t like what he was hearing, refused to respond or allow his committee chairs to respond to questions and challenges and even putting together a separate, closed working group focusing on Sempra Homes with three conservative members and no opposition councillors for the first time in the history of the council. This behaviour is undemocratic and nothing short of gagging the voices of the opposition as they represent their residents.”
Adds Basildon Labour’s Leader, Adele Brown, “We now have no choice given the conduct of the Basildon Conservatives but to take up the seats on these unnecessary committees as it seems to be the only way we can hold the administration to account. This is an appalling situation as the Conservatives are doing all they can to operate under a Pseudo Cabinet when our council’s constitution is that of a committee system. Seeing will be believing as to whether opposition councillors will be given a voice on these scrutiny committees or whether the conservatives will continue to attempt to silence us.”
Labour will place Cllr Gavin Callaghan and Cllr Andrew Ansell on the Policy Scrutiny Committee chair by Cllr Terri Sargeant plus Cllr Allan Davis and Cllr Kayode Adeniran on the Performance Scrutiny Committee chaired by Cllr Malcolm Buckley.