‘Unfair and inappropriate’ or ‘bringing Redbridge into the 21st century’? Governance review splits councillors

Redbridge Town Hall

Redbridge Town Hall - Credit: Archant

Controversial changes to the way Redbridge Council does business have been watered down after a tense meeting last night, but are still likely to become a reality.

The recommendations of a governance review were debated, analysed and in some cases dropped at a meeting of the borough’s strategy and resources service committee at Redbridge town hall.

One of the crucial changes that members were unhappy with was the move to limit questions from members of the public at cabinet and committee meetings to items on the agenda, and to remove their right to ask a supplementary question.

A report presented to the committee claimed: “The right to ask a ‘supplementary question’ does not enhance local democracy.”

But the move was branded “wholly inappropriate, iniquitous and unfair” by Conservative councillor Nick Hayes, and after a brief discussion the recommendation was removed - preserving residents’ rights to ask a follow-up question at meetings.

Original proposals, taken out before the meeting, had also recommended reducing the amount of time members of the public could ask questions from half an hour to 20 minutes.

Another change the committee made was to make sure council officers had to put any proposal to spend more than £500,000 before elected councillors.

Most Read

The draft proposals would have put that threshold at £1million, which caused some councillors to raise concerns about lack of member oversight.

Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal told the committee that the proposed changes would “bring Redbridge into the 21st century”.

“We want to go into the future and ensure that even more is done in partnership with both administration and opposition members to forge the strategy of this council going forward,” he said.

After a tense discussion in which Cllr Bond admitted he no longer trusted Cllr Athwal, a recommendation to remove councillor’s rights to a second question at council meetings was upheld.

In relation to the council’s assertion the proposed changes would save £240,000 – a claim there was no evidence for within the report – Cllr Hayes accused officers of a lack of transparency.

“If this council is going to make claims of how much money this change would make then the figures have to be presented to members. They have got to be properly disseminated, explained and stood up,” he said.

The recommendations of the governance review will now go before next month’s full council meeting.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter