ANGER as Labour Grabs All Top Stevenage Council Jobs

OUTRAGEOUS, undemocratic and contemptible – that is how a council reshuffle has been described by a senior member of the local authority.

Stevenage Borough Council’s annual general meeting was held after The Comet went to press last night (Wednesday), when councillors were told how the various positions within the council would be divvied up.

Sharon Taylor, Labour leader of SBC, told The Comet in advance of the meeting that the Executive would be made up solely of Labour members.

It is also understood that all committee chairs will be Labour members.

In addition, reneging on a cross-party agreement made four years ago, the position of mayor will no longer be offered to an opposition member on alternate years.

Cllr Robin Parker, Liberal Democrat opposition group leader on SBC, said of the reshuffle: “It’s outrageous, undemocratic and contemptible.

“My guess is that they have done it in a fit of pique during their general election defeat.”

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Referring to the exclusively-Labour Executive, he said: “They are taking opposition representation off the decision-making body of the council, and there will be no committee chairs from opposition parties.

“I just find the whole thing unbelievably one-party dictatorial. There’s been no discussion over this. It’s a one-party farce.”

It is understood the role of vice chairman of the scrutiny overview committee will be given to Conservative Cllr Graham Clark, leader of the opposition on the council, but Cllr Parker said: “Vice chair of scrutiny has very little power or control.”

Cllr Clark said of the reshuffle: “I’m not surprised because we are squeezing Labour a bit with the number of seats we have gained. Realistically I hadn’t hoped for more.

“There has been no consultation.”

Cllr Taylor said: “The Executive will be made up solely of Labour members partly because we have a bigger opposition group now. I feel their role should be on scrutiny, and we have allocated the vice chair of scrutiny to an opposition member.”

Referring to the decision about the mayoral role, Cllr Taylor wrote in a letter to fellow councillors: “With a larger opposition on the council and a government not of the same political party as the council’s majority group, the chairing of the council [carried out by the mayor] may become increasingly important in supporting the administration.”

Cllr Parker said: “It’s undemocratic – the change is being done so the mayor will support and help Labour in the council chamber. Why can’t the mayor be impartial?

“Labour has broken a signed agreement without notice or discussion.”

The Labour Party is “obviously scared” because it recognises the support the Conservatives have been getting in the town, claimed Stephen McPartland, Tory MP for Stevenage.