Redbridge Council propose changes to the constitution to avoid councillors 'falling asleep' at late meetings
PUBLISHED: 16:28 15 June 2018
Plans to change the constitution of the borough have been unveiled to streamline the planning process and minimise the chance of councillors falling asleep during meetings.
The Labour-run Redbridge Council has drawn up a number of new proposals including cutting meetings short that overrun to leave outstanding decisions in the hands of council officers.
Other plans centre on giving a Labour chairman the power to make final decisions on planning applications rather than an impartial council officer and preventing councillors commenting on planning applications if they fall outside their ward.
“The planning committee regularly sits until 12 o’clock at night,” said council leader, Councillor Jas Athwal.
“We’re open to legal claims if committee members are seen to be falling asleep whilst making planning decisions late at night -It doesn’t look good.
“We need to trust each other more - There is no political motive here, there is no political advantage.” Redbridge Labour gained 15 seats in the last local elections, winning a total of 51 seats compared to the
Conservatives’ 12 overall seats.
Liberal Democrats were completely obliterated from local politics and critics of the plans say the change would put too much power in the hands of too few and open the council up to “corruption”.
At a general purposes committee meeting on Tuesday, June 12 at Redbridge Town Hall, High Road, Ilford, Conservatives abstained from voting on the proposals with members claiming the new rules open up the process to abuse.
They are also concerned that if applications are passed to council officers they will be removed from public scrutiny.
In a joint statement, Councillor Michael Duffell and Councillor Suzanne Nolan, of South Woodford Conservatives, said: “We are concerned there is still too much power in the hands of one councillor, who can veto whether anything can appear at the committee regardless of how many people object.
“We have always held that something as important as planning should be as open, transparent and above board with clear rules and we believe this opens the whole process up to potential bias, corruption, and not to mention political interference.”
“At the start of the meeting, the Labour group struck a more conciliatory tone saying that the proposals could have been included in a wider review of the constitution but we were dismayed as this didn’t happen and the Labour-dominated committee decided to amend their own amendments without proper thought or consideration to downstream consequences.”
Cllr Athwal said the plans would pull Redbridge more in line with how other London boroughs operate.
He also explained that if members of the public have made a trip to the council to speak at a planning meeting, their applications will be prioritised by the planning committee to avoid wasted journeys.
“The changes proposed are reflective of the arrangements elsewhere in London, we want to streamline the way planning and the process is undertaken in the borough,” he added.
“This isn’t about politics or restricting the rights of residents - the views of residents will still always be considered when our planners assess applications, the same as they do now.
“The difference will be that the system where simple proposals like loft conversions being called unnecessarily into a committee will be considered by officers, leaving the planning committee to deal with the consideration of more complicated proposals as is done elsewhere in London.”