• Devon County Council to weaken its scrutiny function?

    21st May 2013 | News | Claire
  • At Thursday’s annual Devon County Council meeting, councillors will be asked to rubber stamp two of its four scrutiny committees being chaired by conservative members.

    EDDC used to have non ruling party councillors chairing its scrutiny committees.  Roger Giles was the last one, but in 2010, the then leader, Sara Randall Johnson sacked him, replacing Roger with Tory, Ray Bloxham, who remained the chairman, until Stuart Hughes took over in 2011.

    EDDC proposes a new Tory overview and scrutiny chairman, Tim Wood, who will no doubt be rubber stamped into his position by the rest of his party, at tomorrow night’s annual council meeting.

    Devon County Council has for many years, operated a good practice scrutiny function, which was brave enough to allow non-ruling party councillors to chair all of its scrutiny committees.

    It is a great shame that the conservatives have decided to change the rules in this way – and at a time of great financial sensitivity – where many difficult and controversial decisions will no doubt, be on the table.

    The two scrutiny committees destined for a change, are “place” (relating to environmental or highways issues) and “people” (which covers social care and other services affecting vulnerable people).

    EDDC Tory deputy leader, Andrew Moulding, is rumoured to be offered one of the chairmanships.

    Slightly worryingly, Cllr Moulding has been known to try and influence EDDC’s overview and scrutiny committee in the past – over the now beleagured Knowle planning process – see towards the bottom of the blog here – http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/eddc_relocation_cost_could_spiral_to_7_million/

    Hopefully though, Cllr Moulding (if appointed as a scrutiny chair on Thursday) will approach his new role with gusto and a sincere desire to ensure that all decisions and proposals that come before his committee, are thoroughly and effectively debated and scrutinised.

    The annual council meeting on Thursday (23 May) starts at 2.15pm and will be webcast live.  This webcast will also be archived.  The agenda is here – http://www.devon.gov.uk/index/councildemocracy/decision_making/cma/index_dcc.htm  – but the names proposed for committees, are not yet available.

    I have submitted two questions, which are not available yet but I have pasted below:

    1.  “In the last council all the Scrutiny Committees were chaired by non-majority party councillors. Would the Council Leader explain why he has appointed conservative councillors as scrutiny committee chairs?”

    2. “What is this council’s policy on roadside hedge cutting?”

    Photograph:  The Save Our Sidmouth march last November, partly prompted by EDDC’s plans to build over the lovely Knowle gardens.