Sunday, 30 August 2015

Brent Conservatives: 'Curioser and curioser'

Committee allocation

'Curioser and Curioser' may well be Alice in Wonderland's reaction to the situation of Conservative councillors in Brent. To recap, there are two groups of Brent Conservatives" The 'Conservative Group' of Kenton councillors led by Cllr Kansargra and the 'Brent Conservative Group' led by Cllr Warren. There are three members in each.

The two groups tussled for recognition by the Labour Group which resulted in mutual recrimination and Warren characterising the Kenton members as Labour dupes.

Now an Officer's Report LINK going to Full Council on September 7th reveals that Brent Conservative Group are not taking up their positions on the Audit Committee, Standards Committee and Corporate Parenting Committee.
Following the last meeting of Full Council, the Head of Executive and Member Services notified the Leader of the Brent Conservative Group, in writing, of the opportunity to nominate a Member of the Group to the remaining seats the Group had been allocated by 15 July 2015.

In response, the Group leader expressed two wishes: “1. Not to appoint from my group to our allocated committees, 2. To appoint from outside my group.” 

Having been advised that only members of the Brent Conservative Group can be nominated, the Group further expressed the wish that, apart from the Alcohol and Entertainment Licensing Committee, the seats on the committees remain vacant.
One might think that given this stance the seats could be offered to the Conservative Group or the lone Liberal Democrat councillor but the officer's report states:
According to the 1990 Regulations, if a political group has failed to express its wishes in relation to the appointment of a committee seat within a period of three weeks, “the authority......may make such appointment to that seat as they think fit.”
Full Council’s default power is therefore discretionary: the outstanding appointments “may” be made but there is no requirement to do so. Further, the power to appoint has to be interpreted in its statutory context and, in particular, the requirement for political balance. Members are advised that where a political group has been allocated a seat on a committee, Full Council can exercise its power of appointment to that seat only by appointing a member of the political group in question. Accordingly, only a Member of the Brent Conservative Group may be appointed to the seat allocated to it on the Audit, Standards and Corporate Parenting Committees.
With Brent an almost de facto 'one party' council it appears to be an abdication of responsibility for the Brent Conservative Group (as much as I disagree with their policies) to refuse to take up positions on the committees. This is particularly so in relation to Audit and Standards where there are current concerns relating to the conduct of officers and members in the Cara Davani case (subject of a Brent Conservative Group motion at Full Council LINK). Corporate Parenting LINK is of crucial importance as it oversees the Council's responsibilities for the well-being of children in its care and those leaving care.

The report also puts forward the possibility of the appointment of Cllr Dr Helen Carr  (Lib Dem) to the Health and Well-being Board subject to approval of a constitutional amendment tabled at the same meeting.

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