Shake-up of watchdogs in Burnley
COUNCILLORS in Burnley have backed proposals to reduce the number of ‘watchdog’ committees monitoring town hall affairs from three to one.
Council leader Coun Julie Cooper believes the streamlining of the scrutiny system will be more effective in holding executive members to account.
But opposition Liberal Democrats have voiced concerns that the move is being made purely for financial reasons, and will stifle the views of ‘backbench’ councillors.
The new one-committee structure, when implemented, would save around £32,000 each year, councillors heard.
Roles of scrutiny chairman and vice-chairman will come with £4,300 and £1,300 allowan-ces respectively as part of the new regime.
Coun Cooper said: “This is about strengthening the scrut-iny system and is about quality, rather than quantity.
“We will invite 17 members to enthusiastically scrutinise the workings of the council.
“If you look at the numbers on scrutiny panels now, then it is broadly similar.”
But former Conservative mayor Coun David Heginbotham questioned whether the two leading roles on the new committee would be taken by ruling group members, or opposition councillors.
Coun Margaret Lishman, Liberal Democrat group leader, said she agreed that the current system required revision to ensure it remained ‘value for money’, but feared the reduction would only reduce the committee’s standing with council officers.
And another former mayor, Liberal Democrat councillor Roger Frost, said: “My concern is that over the years I have seen a reduction in the role of certain members of this council.
“Scrutiny is perhaps the most important role that ‘backbench’ members can undertake.”
The council currently has scrutiny committees looking at community services, resources and economic regeneration.
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