It was a sad day for democracy at the Brent Council AGM yesterday when not one of the 56 Labour councillors questioned the constitutional changes that will see the level of scrutiny in the Council reduced and limitations on questioning of Cabinet members by backbenchers and the opposition.
At the same time the opposition was weakened by a split in the Conservatives which saw them form an Official Group of three councillors and the 'Brondesbury Park Group' of three.
Cllr John Warren (Brondesbury Park Conservative) opposed the constitutional changes urging Labour backbenchers to 'look at your rights and how they are being lost' pointing to reduced scrutiny, restrictions on questions, removal of 'Key issues' debates, removal of rights to requisition meetings and the guillotine on Council meetings reducing them by 30 minutes.
Dr Helen Carr, (Liberal Democrat, Mapesbury) in her first intervention as a lone Liberal Democrat, said that she did not doubt Muhammed Butt's integrity, but had concerns about the constitutional changes and potential corruption. She appeared to nod in agreement when he reassured her that all was well and all councillors adhered to the highest of standards.
Butt's defence of the changes appeared to be based on their election mandate: 'The people of Brent have spoken'. He argued that the changes would increase participation pointing to the new right of individuals and community organisations to address meetings of the Council. He said that headteachers and doctors would be involved in the new Scrutiny Committee but failed to make a case for the reduction in the overall number of scrutiny committees and restrictions on questions.
All the Labour councillors voted for the changes, Brondesbury Park Conservatives voted against, and the Official Conservatives abstained.