Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Powney calls for councillors to give themselves time to discuss Scrutiny proposals - and not accept a fait accompli

It is good to see James Powney LINK responding to the 'clarification' of Scrutiny proposals which I published from a source very close to Brent Labour earlier LINK

Like me he can see no reference to this detail in the Officer's Report going before Full Council tomorrow and remarks:
If Martin's source is knowledgeable, I wonder whether these are last minute changes to mitigate the apparent intention of removing the operations of the Council from effective scrutiny.  It all seems a very hole-in-the-corner way of doing things.
He says that the requirement that questions to Cabinet members at Full Council be submitted in advance, and without follow-up questions allowed,  will mean that officers will write the answers and they will be read out by the lead members'

He goes on:
All this strikes me as a far cry from how things should be done.  I have suggested that there are three objectives Scrutiny should aim at.  The Welsh National Audit Office has recently gone through a more elaborate analysis.  What the balance between is is an area where I can imagine lots of different points of view, but it is essentially a matter for political value judgements, not simply a technical issue.  Therefore, it should be the subject of a proper debate and decision by councillors, not simply presented to them as a fait accompli within a fortnight of election.

The elected members of the Council should give themselves time to discuss how they want Scrutiny to function, and what they decide should be laid out clearly, not anonymously communicated to Martin Francis. 
I agree completely that a proper report, detailing the proposals and setting out how lay committee members would be recruited is essential for proper consideration of the Scrutiny proposals. Far reaching Scrutiny proposals approved without proper scrutiny would open the Council up to ridicule.

I hope backbench Labour  councillors and the opposition take note and speak up tomorrow.

If you need any persuasion of the confusing aspects of the Scrutiny changes and perhaps evidence of the haste in which they have been prepared see the Supplementary Agenda LINK. Particularly important noteworthy are pages 30 and 48.

If you wish to attend the Full Council on Wednesday as a member of the public you are advised to let Anne Reid of Democratic Services know, as the number of seats is limited:  anne.reid@brent.gov.uk


  1. James Powney, he who closed 6 libraries against the views of 82% of Brent residents, is now arguing for greater democracy. This gets curiouser and curiouser.

  2. If the angels are joyful when a sinner repents, Anon, who are we to argue .........

  3. Your sins are forgive James Powney.

    God Bless You

  4. It may be unpalatable coming from James Powney but what he says about scrutiny is surely true? It's doubtful that Powney has had a Damascene conversion as the commentator above hints at - a party-politician without a hidden agenda is a rare beast, and Powney's eyes are probably on an electoral come-back. But it would be a mistake to ignore his message.

    Regarding the closure of 50% of Brent's libraries - as Nan Tewari has said on a recent WM blog, the grandiose-titled 'Library Transformation Project' sounds as if it were an officer-led idea - implemented by 'elected' politicians, of course, with Powney in lead role. An October 2012 WM post 'Is Donald's the right development road for Brent'?


    is long but well-worth the read in light of the apparent strengthening of the role of senior officers under the proposed new scrutiny arrangements - Andy Donald is still in post.

    Was it Brent council tax payers who paid for Mr Donald's trip to the Cannes-based 'Le marché international des professionnels de l’immobilier', colloquially known amongst the international real-estate jet-set as MIPIM: 'one of the largest real estate shows, including an exhibition area, networking events and expert-led conference sessions over a period of 4 days' (Wiki)!? A long way from Brent, and the shabby, on-the-ground reality of the closure of 6 local libraries. Yes, rightly castigate Powney and co for pushing through the LTP - they're the 'elected ones' and Brent was the only London borough to close any libraries. But it'd be disastrous to ignore the powerful role of senior officers - and their apparent treatment of junior colleagues (the Davani case, for example).

  5. Brent was not the only London borough to close libraries.
    See Public Libraries News website for full details of the many London libraries that have closed.There have been many closures across London, and more to come.

    1. Thanks for correction - have viewed the website.