The opposition leader has called on the council to ensure scrutiny of decision-making remains robust after a councillor with one year’s experience was chosen to head a key committee.

Conservative leader Cllr Joanne Laban said she was “surprised” that Cllr Susan Erbil, who was elected for the first time in May last year, was made chairman of the overview and scrutiny committee (OSC) at annual council last week (May 8).

The OSC’s role is to hold the council to account by ensuring decision-making is clear and understandable and works in the best interests of people living and working in the borough.

Cllr Erbil’s appointment came as several councillors with just a year’s experience were given positions in the cabinet – including Cllr Ian Barnes, who was made deputy leader – making them key decision-makers.

Cllr Laban said: “I was surprised to learn that the Labour Group had chosen Cllr Susan Erbil to be chair of OSC.

“The chair of the OSC is normally someone who has been on a council for some time due to it being a senior position.

“Cllr Erbil has only been a councillor for one year. She will have to prove herself on being transparent and tough with the executive.”

The opposition leader also said the appointment went against recently published Government guidelines stating that OSC chairs should not provide scrutiny of their relatives.

Cllr Erbil is the cousin of Cllr Guney Dogan, who is the cabinet member for environment and sustainability.

The guidelines, published this month (May) by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, state: “Given their pre-eminent role on the scrutiny committee, it is strongly recommended that the chair not preside over scrutiny of their relatives.”

Cllr Laban said: “The Government has just released guidance strongly recommending that the chair of the committee not provide overview and scrutiny of a relative.

“I agree with this new guidance, as I don’t think it is a good idea for whoever (the chair) is to scrutinise a relative.

“I don’t think it is transparent enough and lends itself to questions. It does not look good from the outside looking in.”

But Cllr Erbil said: “Last year I served as a member of OSC. This year I am pleased to have received the support of my Labour colleagues at the annual general meeting to take up the role of OSC Chair – a role I am perfectly entitled to put myself forward for.

“Cllr Laban might be advised to spend more time concentrating on ensuring that she and the other Conservative councillors in her group play a constructive role on the OSC.”

Council leader Cllr Nesil Caliskan said: “There is nothing in our constitution, or the law, that prohibits a councillor from being the chair of OSC based on years of service on the council – and to do so would have significant equalities implications.

“Myself and the Labour Group have every faith that Susan will act with impartiality and integrity – she has indeed already signed up to the same councillor conduct code as every other councillor, and she has previously been a member of the OSC.”

An Enfield Council spokesperson said: “The composition and balance of elected members on Enfield Council’s committees is set out by the authority’s constitution and reflects the political balance of the council. The scrutiny committee is correctly balanced.

“Which councillors take up the seats allocated to the groups for each committee is a matter for the political parties.

“Any councillor that considers they have an interest in any matter before the committee will need to declare the nature of the interest, having taken advice from the monitoring officer.

“There is nothing to prevent Cllr Susan Erbil chairing the committee.”