Wakefield Conservative group attacks 'sinister and undemocratic' changes to council meetings

Wakefield's opposition Conservative group has attacked Labour for making what they claim are "outrageous" and "undemocratic" changes to council meetings.

Friday, 21st May 2021, 9:41 am
Council meetings will soon resume in person here, at County Hall.

Frontline Cabinet members usually field questions about their brief from Wakefield's 63 councillors at the monthly County Hall meetings.

But on Thursday, Wakefield Council approved a change which means councillors wanting to quiz a Cabinet member will have to submit their question seven working days in advance.

They will not have to do so if it relates to an issue already mentioned in a report going before the meeting.

The council chamber at County Hall.

Tory group leader, Coun Nadeem Ahmed, said the change amounted to "introducing a sinister and undemocratic change to council procedure rules, which will lead to much less scrutiny" of the authority's decision-makers.

In response, Labour insisted the changes were "minor" and that they brought Wakefield into line with other authorities.

But Coun Ahmed said: "This shocking violation of the principles of scrutiny and accountability must not go unchecked.

"The Conservative group will be calling them out on this reckless and partisan attempt to rob opposition councillors of their democratic duty, to hold the Labour Cabinet to account."

Tory group leader Nadeem Ahmed said the move would "not be tolerated".

"The Conservative group will be placing Wakefield Labour on notice that this will not be tolerated. We will vote against this outrageous action and are calling on all parties to join us in condemning it."

Historically, councillors of all parties have used Q&A sessions with Cabinet members to raise local issues on behalf of the residents they serve.

Coun Ahmed raised the point at the council's annual general meeting, which was held in Wakefield Cathedral alongside its mayor-making ceremony, on Thursday.

However, large parts of the exchange were inaudible on the council's live stream of the event.

A spokesperson for the Labour group said: "These minor changes to our council procedure rules were made to ensure a more consistent approach to questions and answers at council meetings and to bring us in line with other authorities.

"The Conservative group are at liberty to ask any Cabinet member any question under the rules.

"Any question placed on notice can also be followed up with an additional question that Cabinet members have no prior knowledge of."

“This year we have also made changes to our scrutiny structure – the cross party panels responsible for holding the Cabinet to account - so that they are more aligned to Cabinet member roles and therefore better able to scrutinise."

Local Democracy Reporting Service