Monday 16 November 2015

Wanted: Chair of Brent Scrutiny Committee

Following the sad and premature death of Cllr  Dan Filson, who had made a good start at making Brent Scrutiny Committee more effective, a new Committee chair is needed from amongst the Labour group:
Speaking to some of the Labour group it is clear that there are some impediments to the challenging scrutiny of a Council with such a large majority and where the leader is controlling and intolerant of criticism.

The new Chair will thus need to be someone who has not got an eye on future preferment by the Council leadership, including the position of Mayor, and with the strength and tenacity to follow issues through without caving in to pressure.

The new Chair should have a proven public record of contributions to Full Council Meetings which are more than planted questions to Lead Members to showcase the Council's achievements. They should have raised pertinent questions on policy decisions  and detail at Full Council or committee meetings.

Some in the Labour group are of the opinion that the position requires such a high workload that it should not be undertaken by someone who has a full time job in addition to being a councillor. That obviously raises significant issues about equality of opportunity. Those putting forward the argument suggest that a 'part time' Scrutiny Chair will become over-dependent on Council officers who themselves should be subject to scrutiny.

Lastly the new Chair should not be compromised by close friendships and relationships with Cabinet members that might affect their independence. This could extend to representing the same ward as the leadership.

The Scrutiny Committee's role can be found HERE

 Just a reminder of what Barry Gardiner MP said reacting to Labour's election  result last May:
I’m thrilled, of course I’m thrilled but we need to be very careful.
It is a huge responsibility because a majority this big for any party means that we have to look within ourselves for the sort of scrutiny that we need of the policies that we ourselves are proposing.
All of these people got elected because they managed to persuade voters they wanted to represent them in the civic centre on the council. They must remember their job is to represent the people to the bureaucratic (sic) of the council and not to represent the council bureaucrats to the people. 
We are here to be a critical voice to say where things are wrong and to set policy to change Brent for the better.
Who will be that independent critical voice for Brent residents?

Any nominations?


Alison Hopkins said...

John Duffy would be excellent. I suspect Rita Conneely would be as well. None of the rest of them meet those criteria that I can think of.

Anonymous said...

Alison's S.Talker friend seems to have a lot of time on his hands, is tirelessly persistent, almost to the point of obsession, and appears to keep a close eye on things (well, some things). Not sure whether he'd be able to see the bigger picture, though, as his head is usually in a rather dark and sweaty place with very limited vision.

Anonymous said...

It was Cllr Filson's knowledge and experience that helped the junior members of the committee and without them, they will certainly struggle. My vote would be for Phillip Grant, Michael Hine or Martin Francis to be appointed as external members that would be able to cast some real scrutiny over the council decisions. Aside from them I would concurr that John Duffy would be the best man for the job and if he had been the person leading the flytip task-force we might have had some better actions than what was on offer.

Philip Grant said...

Sadly, I cannot see many suitable choices, despite the large number of Labour councillors.

There are a few I have come across who might make a good job of being Chair of Scrutiny Committee, but I do not wish to scupper their chances by naming them, although I wish them luck if they do put themselves forward for the position!

Philip Grant.

Anonymous said...

Very wise Philip. Hopkins has just given Cllr Conneely the kiss of death!

Anonymous said...

John Duffy would fit those criteria but doesn't have a snowball in hell's chance of being elected by the Labour group. Rita Conneely has never publicly put her head above the parapet. Tom Miller struggles to keep up with his current workload and is also too ambitious, as is Neil Nerva. Arshad Mahmood is Cllr Butt's cousin. Sarah Marquis is too close to a Cabinet member. Claudia Hector backs down from her stated positions embarrassingly quickly. Keith Perrin is all talk. The rest are incapable of independent thought and the less said about the Asian-hating S.Talker the better. We are stuffed.

Anonymous said...

From reading this it appears that Brent Labour group has a lot in common with Mogden Lane sewage station in terms of what rises to the top. I'm hoping S.Talker will present himself as a candidate and, as it were, flush himself out.

Anonymous said...

What about Kawala.

Alison Hopkins said...

Rita Conneely has been very helpful indeed to someone I know well and I respect her enormously for it. I suspect Duffy is far too independent of mind, sadly - again, well thought of by people who's opinion is sound.

Butt's Dar axis is unhealthy in many ways.

Pete Firmin said...

There is really only one criteria - a willingness to speak truth to power. If that is not the case, whatever else it is, it is not scrutiny.

Anonymous said...

Although Scrutiny Committee needs to find an effective Chair to replace Dan Filson, I can see that it would benefit from some co-opted "external members".

It does have a number of non-councillors appointed to it at the moment, but their role is very limited. As Part 5 of Brent's Constitution sets out, in its terms of reference for Scrutiny Committee:

'The Committee consists of fourteen members in total comprising of eight Councillors,
4 voting education co-opted members and 2 non voting education co-opted members.'

In setting out the limitations on the co-opted members, it states:

'The voting co-opted members may only vote on matters relating to school education and the non-voting co-opted members may not vote on any matter.'

Some other Council committees (including Standards Committee) have at least one independent member on them. Scrutiny Committee could benefit from one or two such members, who can contribute fully to its decision-making without any party political bias or other pressures. This would need a change to Brent's Constitution, but perhaps there is an enlightened Brent Councillor out there who could raise the suggestion?

Philip Grant.

Anonymous said...

Kalwala has not been re admitted to the Labour group after his conviction earlier for violence against another Labour councillor. He's persona non grata