Council staff are facing possible redundancies under major restructuring plans due to be passed tonight.
Labour is looking to streamline its scrutiny committees, which hold the council to account over various decisions, as well as scrapping public forums and appointing more cabinet members.
The opposition Conservative group has warned the plans will reduce accountability and lessen public involvement, but Labour group leader Doug Taylor his back this afternoon, accusing the Tories of “attempting to muddy the waters”.
Under the plans, the current scrutiny system, which involves separate committees to analyse areas such as crime, health and housing, will be scrapped in favour of one single committee.
As a result of the proposed change, backroom staff who support the committees would be “redeployed where possible” or face redundancy.
The new overview committee will contain six councillors who will each be assigned to a particular portfolio, and will be asked to assess any issues with smaller groups and to shorter deadlines.
Councillor Taylor said: “It is more flexible and time limited, rather than being rambling and constrained. We see it as a liberating experience, not a reduction in accountability.”
Mandatory public area forums where residents can ask questions directly to their elected representatives will also be scrapped under the plans, which look set to be passed at tonight’s full council meeting.
And three new ‘associate cabinet members’ would be appointed to the cabinet at a cost of more than £22,000-a-year in expenses – though the Labour group has been keen to point out there would be no extra cost to the taxpayer due to savings made in the streamlining of scrutiny.
New Conservative group leader Terence Neville said: “We are losing a key democratic process. Decisions taken by officers will not be held up to scrutiny and the accountability of cabinet members will be lost.
“Without the area forums, councillors can do pretty much what they like and can choose not to hold the meetings at all.”
But Councillor Taylor insisted the proposals were positive.
He said: “We have never hidden from the fact we need to streamline this council. It is rich for the Tories to talk about job losses when they proposed moving staff out of London.
“They’re just trying to muddy the waters and Terry Neville is shedding crocodile tears about the staff given he was talking about moving them to Timbuktu.
“We’re always loathed to make redundancies and staff will be redeployed where they can be.”