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Being Labour, Breaking News, Cotterill on the Council

Labour’s complaint

03.23.11 | Comment?

This is the text of the formal letter of complaint about the Tory Borough Council’s administration’s most recent abuse of democracy, delivered to the Chief Executive’s inbox this morning, after careful deliberation at Monday night’s Labour group meeting.

The Labour group on the Council does not take such a formal stance lightly, but enough is enough.

 

Subject: Formal complaint on behalf of the Labour Group

Date: Wed, 23 Mar 2011 07:57:44 +0000

 

Dear Mr Taylor

Labour members are concerned about the administration’s approach to the democratic process, and consider that the time has come to make a formal complaint about the most recent incident. Before moving on to that, here are some matters which have been raised informally in recent months, which illustrate our concerns:

1) At the Full Council meeting of the 23rd February the Mayor’s Agenda was not completed. The argument given on the night by the Mayor for curtailing his agenda was lack of time. However, the agenda items left over appeared to have been selected in order to avoid embarrassment for the controlling group. When the Labour group challenged this and moved a motion in favour of finishing the agenda, a properly called vote was in progress and called off mid way through the process by the Mayor, simply at the behest of the Leader. You chose not to intervene in this abuse of power by offering the Mayor the appropriate advice.

2) At a recent Overview & Scrutiny meeting of the Leader clearly instructed members of the controlling group how to vote. This was in disregard for the principle that such votes should not be whipped, and that members of the controlling group had confirmed at the start of the meeting that they were not whipped.

3) In spite of the ample time to do so, and compounded by the provision of erroneous information on the timescales for the consultation, there has been a clear failure to bring an important consultation matter (adult social care) to Cabinet and through the Overview & Scrutiny process. Delegated authority was therefore taken for the submission without just cause, and the response submitted both wholly unsatisfactory and arguable unlawful (though after speaking with the Monitoring Officer I have decided not to pursue this latter point at the moment).

4) There has been a clear failure of officers to act on undertakings, documented in emails, in respect to environmental management; specifically requests continually made for action in relation to Tawd Valley.

5) On the same matter of the environmental management of the Tawd Valley, a statement to the press was issued which contradicted the findings and legitimate decision of the Corporate Overview & Scrutiny meeting of 8th March, perhaps in expectation that such a decision would not be carried given that the proposal came from a Labour member.

6) There was an unacceptable delay in following up on a decision made at Corporate Overview & Scrutiny process under the Councillor Call for Action procedure, resulting in my having to follow up informally a formally invoked matter.

7) There was a clear failure to address seriously, for months on end, a resolution calling for Lancashire County Council to investigate the potential for a Public Transport Authority.

8) There has been unreasonable refusal even to consider the approval of an external grant application, submitted by myself (acting as Leader of the Labour Group), for funds to trial innovative participation in the democratic processes.

The Labour group has, on previous occasions, voiced its disquiet informally at all the matters detailed above, in the expectation of improvement. Sadly, the failures continue to manifest themselves, and the group has now decided that a formal complaint is necessary

The most recent failure – about which we now wish to make our formal complaint – concerns the Cabinet meeting of Tuesday 15th March, specifically the agenda item ‘LDF Core Strategy – preferred options paper for public consultation’.

The resolution carried at the preceding Executive Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 3rd February was very clear:

“That, when considering the Options document at Cabinet on 15 March 2011 in respect of Preferred Options B and C, Cabinet be requested to indicate that views may also be given, through the consultation process, on the rejected Option A.”

No such request was made to Cabinet at the meeting on 15th March.

This is not, we contend in the context of the other events set out above, a one-off event; a pattern has emerged of failure by the administration to act according to the correct procedures or to carry through the will of members, when to do so is not in the interests of the controlling group. The Members of the Labour Group can only surmise that the administration has failed to act constitutionally or properly on so many recent occasions because it considers political expedience more important than democratic integrity.

This is the substance of our complaint.

We look forward to hearing from you on how the administration intends to resolve this issue, such that the democratically expressed will of the Executive Overview & Scrutiny group is carried through, and such that this disregard for the democratic process does not occur again in his way.

Yours sincerely

 

Paul Cotterill, Leader of the Labour Group

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