Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Locking horns?

Last week's Full Council typified much that is wrong with the way that institution operates. Hopefully the newly-formed Corporate Governance Working Party will get to grips with this, but more of that anon.
My fellow Darlington blogger, Labour Cabinet member Nick Wallis, described last Thursday's Council as Labour and Conservatives "locking horns". Well, up to a point.
Cllr Heather Scott repeated the Conservatives' demand for Scrutiny Committee Chairs to be divvied up between the opposition parties, this time arguing on the basis of what might or might not have been recommended as good practice at some conference in London earlier that day.
Labour Councillor Ian Hazeldine, a sometime reader of this blog and defender of the status quo, who had also attended said conference, presented a different interpretation of what had been recommended at that conference. And there the debate ended. Both protagonists had made their only comments, no more debate was allowed.
It is so frustrating to sit in Council and know that no matter how important or interesting the subject, no worthwhile debate can ever take place because each member is allowed to speak only once, and no further discussion is permitted once the Cabinet Member has answered (or in some cases, not answered) the questions asked and the points made by opposition councillors.
I know some individual Labour councillors share the opposition parties' desire to reform the rules of engagement in the Council Chamber, but whether the Executive will voluntarily open themselves up to greater questioning and more effective opposition remains to be seen.

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