More Impact Needed from Opposition on Stevenage Council
CONSERVATIVES on Stevenage Borough Council need to be more vocal in their disapproval of decisions.
LAST week Stevenage Borough Council underwent a reshuffle which saw Labour take all the top jobs.
The Executive - the decision-making body of the council - is now made up purely of Labour councillors, and all committee chairs are also Reds.
With the exception of the Scrutiny Overview Committee, all vice chairs of committees are Labour members, and the possibility of a minority party councillor becoming mayor while SBC is Labour-controlled has been removed.
While the Labour Party has a convincing majority on SBC, with 27 seats to the Conservatives’ nine and the Lib Dems’ three, it is not acceptable, or necessary, for its members to go to such an extent to stamp their authority.
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As far as I see it, having a one-party Executive - whatever the political colour - is a bad idea. Not only does it encourage secrecy within a council, but it also prevents adequate scrutiny of proposals before they are decided upon.
With no opposition member on the Executive, it should surely follow that one such councillor is made chairman of the Scrutiny Overview Committee (SOC).
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Conservative councillor, Graham Clark, leader of the opposition on SBC, had previously told The Comet that if he wasn’t given a place on the Executive then he expected to be made chairman of SOC. He achieved neither, and was instead made vice chair of SOC.
What infuriates me about the situation is that Cllr Clark made no objection whatsoever to the matter at the council’s annual general meeting last Thursday. He may as well have not been there, as he displayed no resistance to the Labour councillors dictating how the council would be run for the coming year.
In contrast, Cllr Robin Parker, leader of the Liberal Democrats on SBC, voiced his dissatisfaction over several aspects of the reshuffle.
He moved to have a minority party member of the council put back onto the Executive. Of course Labour members objected to it but, to my surprise, the Conservative councillors abstained from voting.
When Cllr Parker moved to have Lib Dem councillor Graham Snell made mayor, calling on others to vote in his favour to show support for the idea that the role of mayor should not be open exclusively to Labour councillors, the Conservatives again abstained from voting.
On several occasions, Cllr Parker attempted to hold the Labour members to account but, with support only from the two other Lib Dem councillors, he made little impression. At least he tried.
Cllr Clark objected to nothing at the meeting, despite being railroaded by Labour in the reshuffle. As leader of the opposition it is surely his duty to question decisions made, to fight the Conservative corner, and to disagree with other council members occasionally.
His mild-mannered approach means council leader Sharon Taylor is being given an easy ride. He needs to be more assertive and start actively representing the people who voted for him.
* MY opinion in this week’s Last Word bears no reflection to my political allegiance. I simply feel that councillors should fight their party’s corner in order to properly represent those who elected them, and that SBC should be more balanced in its administration.