Enfield Council says a shake-up of its decision-making structure will improve scrutiny – but opposition councillors warned it could lead to people being disenfranchised and put the green belt in danger.

The reforms come in response to a review by the Centre for Public Scrutiny – a charity that aims to improve public scrutiny and accountability. They were discussed at a meeting of the full council on Wednesday (July 1).

According to a council report, the proposals - which will see the creation of seven new panels - were “based on feedback received from members who felt that standing panels would provide better accountability, transparency, and improve their involvement”.

But some changes – such as the merger of the conservation advisory group, green belt forum and public transport consultative group into the environment and climate change panel – led to fears there would be less scrutiny in some key areas.

At Wednesday’s meeting, council leader Cllr Nesil Caliskan (Labour, Jubilee) said: “Following the review, the proposals are to enhance the committee and scrutiny structures that have been agreed.

“I think this should be a welcome proposal by councillors because it recognises the important role they play, together with officers, who are helping shape policies for our borough.

“It also allows more councillors to be involved in crucial policy discussions and for there to be a structured process for being able to develop proposals and recommendations that really take into account the different views of councillors from across the borough.”

Conservative leader Cllr Joanne Laban (Highlands) said her group welcomed some of the reforms, such as the separate panels.

But she warned against the merging of audit with two other committees and the combination of the separate groups to form the environment forum.

“A lot of stakeholders have raised their concerns,” the Tory leader said. “The green belt and conservation are very important, and I believe bringing them together is not the right thing. We need to show that we are committed to the green belt.”

Cllr Alessandro Georgiou (Conservative, Cockfosters) said he was concerned about the “pushing out of community groups” in his ward and claimed the changes were a “precursor to an attack on the green belt by removing scrutiny on this issue”.

But Cllr Ergin Erbil (Labour, Edmonton Green) told the meeting that having sat on the conservation advisory group and green belt forum, he felt they neglected some of the issues faced by residents in the east of the borough, such as air pollution.

Cllr Erbil said: “I welcome the changes and the fact that the environment forum will make environmental issues more inclusive and cover more areas, and make sure people in Edmonton can voice their concerns.”

Cllr Caliskan said there had been an “extremely thorough” consultation on the changes with councillors, and members of the community would still be able to provide feedback informally as well as through the new environment panel.

The reforms were agreed after Labour councillors voted in favour, with the exception of Cllr Vicki Pite (Chase), who abstained, and Cllr Daniel Anderson (Southgate Green), who voted against. Members of the Conservative Group and Community First also voted against.

The seven new scrutiny panels are: crime, health and adult social care, children and young people, regeneration and economic development, finance and performance, environment and climate action, and housing.

The current overview and scrutiny committee will remain in place to oversee the new panels.