19 October 2016
Lambeth Council is seeking to make changes to its constitution which would limit the capacity of councillors to “call in” its decisions for further scrutiny.
The changes, which can be found in section 8.c of the Agenda Pack released ahead of tonight’s (October 19th) full council meeting, would hand greater powers to “the Monitoring Officer and/or Democratic Services and Scrutiny Manager” to deny call-ins, and prevent decisions from receiving further examination by the Scrutiny Committee.
The changes could have meant the rejection of recent call-ins of decisions over the futures of Cressingham Gardens estate (1) and the borough’s library services (2).
Marked as “awaiting approval”, the language, added to section 27.1, Call-in process, (p. 193) of the constitution states that:
“Call-in of a decision would not be valid If the request is considered (in the reasonable opinion of the Monitoring Officer and/or Democratic Services and Scrutiny Manager) to be defamatory, frivolous, offensive, or an inappropriate use of the call-in process.”
The amendment goes on to note that “discretion would be given to the Monitoring Officer in consultation with the Democratic Services and Scrutiny Manager (Statutory Scrutiny Officer) to refuse the call-in”.
Councillor Scott Ainslie (Green Party, St Leonards Ward) said:
“These changes to the constitution hand far too much discretion to unelected officers. They appear politically motivated, with the purpose of reducing the scope of opposition councillors, and therefore the residents of Lambeth, to challenge council decisions. This can only have a negative impact on democratic accountability within the borough. I urge my fellow councillors, in the strongest terms, to reject these changes.”
Co-leader of The Green Party of England and Wales, Jonathan Bartley, a Streatham resident, said:
“These constitutional changes give too much control to officers and take power away from councillors. This is particularly dangerous in a one-party state like Lambeth. To leave the judging of what is "inappropriate" to unelected officers is an anti-democratic move, designed to avoid scrutiny of council decision-making.”
Contact: Jonathan Bartley