Warwickshire’s Conservative group has been accused of ‘attempting to restrict democracy’ following the appointment of scrutiny committee chairperson roles on the county council.
The leaders of the Green, Liberal Democrat and Labour groups on Warwickshire County Council have issued statements which criticise council and Conservative group leader Cllr Izzi Seccombe for ‘giving’ the roles only to fellow party members following last month’s council elections in which the Tories gained a significant majority of seats.
Lib Dem group leader Cllr Jerry Roodhouse said that best practice would be for the council’s executive to be scrutinised and enable the public to question the controlling group.
He added: “The action of the Conservative administration to secure all scrutiny chairs and tighten the screw on democracy gives them a blank cheque. We are committed to hold them to account and will do so.”
Labour group leader Cllr Richard Chattaway said he was surprised by Cllr Seccombe’s response on behalf of the Conservative group.
He added: “For the last four years she has been advocating opening up the council to Warwickshire taxpayers. Now she has total control she seems to want to run a closed shop with limited accountability of her group’s actions.”
Green group leader Cllr Jonathan Chilvers said there was a lot of evidence of councils making better decisions if those making them are held to account by strong opposition.
He said: “Our democracy works better when there are clear checks and balances and I’m disappointed that the Conservatives think that cutting these back is the right thing to do.”
In response, Cllr Seccombe said that when the council had a minority Tory administration before the election the ‘natural decision making process’ had been delayed.
She also hit back at the Labour group for ‘not sharing’ scrutiny chairperson roles with the other opposition parties in the last four years.
She said vice-chair roles had been offered to Labour councillors and declined and that she will be working with a Labour chairman of a regulatory committee for his knowledge and experience, and has also asked Cllr Clive Rickhards, a Lib Dem councillor, to be chairman of Warwickshire County Council for the next year.
She said: “He has been delighted to accept this post and will be a good chairman for Warwickshire.
She added: “The council needs to be run efficiently and with a clear plan for the next four years, every element will play its part and that will include the best informed scrutiny, providing checks and balance as it should.”