Conservatives slam changes to the way Enfield Council is scrutinised

Councillor Terry Neville, leader of the opposition, has slammed the latest changes

Leader of the council Doug Taylor defended the changes saying that there will be more scrutiny

First published in News Enfield Independent: Photograph of the Author by

Changes to the way council decisions are scrutinised will "fundamentally weaken" the means to hold the authority to account, opposition councillors have claimed.

Under the latest plans passed by Enfield Borough Council, the six panels that currently hold the council to account will be cut down to one scrutiny committee

The previous panels individually analysed decisions made regarding crime, children and young people, communities, health and wellbeing, regeneration, and older people. This will now become one panel covering all six areas.

Changes will also included axing area forums, which previously allowed councillors and council officers to consult with members of the public on local issues.

These have now been replaced by ward forums, which will be led and organised by councillors and have no input from council officers.

The new scrutiny measures have been brought in two months after Labour extended its majority at the council following the local elections in May.

Councillor Terry Neville, leader of the Conservative opposition group, condemned the latest changes and told the Enfield Independent this was a "fundamental weakening" of scrutiny.

He said: "These changes, however Labour dress them up, amount to a fundamental weakening of the scrutiny process at a time when it has never been more needed.

"It is also a real loss of opportunity for many new members on both sides to learn about the different functions of the council, and all of this with no quantified savings."

In response to Cllr Neville, the Labour leader of the council Cllr Doug Taylor said: "Our objective is to have an efficient, effective and economic council.

"The reality is that we must make savings and success is built on change. We will continue to scrutinise, and we will have public meetings to make scrutiny more effective.

"Cllr Neville appears not to understand the proposal [on ward forums]. The seven area forums will be replaced by 21 ward fora.

"This increases, not decreases, accountability and contact with the public."

In addition, three associate cabinet member (ACM) roles have been added to the council's constitution, giving three existing councillors the chance to each represent a third of the borough and report directly to the cabinet.

These roles will last at least until the next general election, providing more "focus" for the council across Enfield.

However, such roles have been heavily criticised by the opposition who claim this is a form of gerrymandering.

During a meeting of the full council last Wednesday, Cllr Ertan Hurer lambasted the description of the new associate cabinet members in the council report.

The description reads: "The new role will not have formal executive decision making powers but has been designed to provide a focus within the areas covered for co-ordinating member engagement and providing a focal point around regeneration and other strategic development initiatives on a cross ward basis."

Cllr Hurer said: "This is complete and utter gibberish. This is nothing more than the council using taxpayers' money to give their candidates a better chance of winning in the general election."

Cllr Neville added: "They are paying three of their members, including Bambos Charalambous (who will stand against David Burrowes MP in Enfield Southgate at the General Election), an extra £10,000-plus to campaign for votes in the run up to next May's General Election.

"It is nothing more than party politics paid for by the taxpayers of Enfield, which, given they have refused to rule out future council tax rises, I find incredible."

In response to the criticisms of the latest changes, Cllr Taylor said: "Scrutiny will be as effective as it ever was, just less expensive. ACMs are designed to make sure geographic areas get special consideration in decision making and consultation on wide areas such as on designated area planning is a lot more effective.

"His [Cllr Neville] suggestions are pure nonsense born from a desire to throw mud rather than constructively debate.

"There is a lot of criticism around ACMs, which is rubbish. We are not the only council to have ACMs related to their cabinet but we want them to be spaced out."

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