Havering’s backbenchers are deliberately disempowered. This is especially true for administration councillors. Councillors should take part in debate as MPs do in parliament. This is important because the cabinet has identikit members endorsing each other’s biases.
Last week’s council meeting1 was farcical. Conservative councillors sulked and no motions were proposed.2 Twenty-three administration backbenchers were gagged by procedure.
Worse! Councillors who are brushed off, a frequent occurrence, can’t reply. Next question please!
Cabinet makes political choices, which need debate. For example, motorists are pre-eminent in Havering. Any policy limiting their supposed rights is attacked with ferocity. Some claims are uncritically endorsed by cabinet biases.4 Alternatively, the children’s lobby is weak, as are groups associated with volunteering and the environment. Policy making based on who shouts loudest is the politics of the playground bully. Transparent debate is the only way good policies emerge.
- Every cabinet member should attend an hour meeting quarterly with one of the two Scrutiny and Overview committees
- Question Time should be open to all councillors like parliament’s
- A follow-up question should be permitted with the Mayor’s approval
- The Leader should attend a separate committee with both Scrutiny and Overview chairs and deputies along with a further four councillors quarterly.
2 It was ever thus. When the Conservatives were in administration their Overview and Scrutiny committees were an embarrassment
4 The ULEZ debate is a prime example. In Havering public health is trumped by the right of motorists to pollute with impunity. If readers wish to check their address for levels of pollution go to addresspollution.org – Search (bing.com) The figures relate to WHO statistics.