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“Arrogant Labour break council rules” – Lib Dems

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THE Liberal Democrat group on Warrington Borough Council has accused the ruling Labour group of “playing fast and loose” with the authority’s constitution.
They say Labour’s huge majority on the council has made them arrogant enough to believe they can ignore government and Local Government Association guidance.
The row flared at the council’s annual meeting when Labour decided to give the lone Conservative member – Cllr Kath Buckley, five committee places.
Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Bob Barr said, “According to the rules, a political group needs to have at least two members to be legally entitled to any committee places.
“After the Conservatives lost a seat to us at the recent by-election in Lymm, they are down to one councillor. Labour has decided to give up five of their committee places to the remaining Conservative so she can play a role on the council.
“When voters elected Labour councillors they expected them to do their job and sit on the committees they are entitled to sit on. They didn’t expect them to be giving committee places away to the Conservatives.
“This is a favour they refused to grant when one of their councillors defected, and sat as a sole TUSC councillor, or when an Independent Labour candidate won a seat but was not given any committee places.
“It is especially wrong that the Conservative should be given a place on the chief employment panel and the mayoral selection committee. This effectively gives the Conservatives the status of a group. We are surprised to find Labour supporting the Conservatives in this way.
By contrast the Labour Group has refused to concede one of Warrington’s two places on the Police and Crime Panel, which holds the Police and Crime Commissioner to account, to the Liberal Democrats.
“Warrington Liberal Democrats hold 12 of the 16 Liberal Democrat seats in the Cheshire Constabulary area. Guidance on the political make up of Police and Crime Panels makes it clear that efforts should be made to ensure that all major political groups are represented on the panels.
“In 2016 Labour did the right thing and allocated one of the two places to a Liberal Democrat. However, by 2017 the Labour group in Warrington decided that it wanted both places for itself and removed Liberal Democrat representation from the panel.
“Labour is arrogant enough to believe that because they have a large majority they can play fast and loose with the Council’s constitution and ignore government and Local Government Association guidance.”

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  1. The law actually says that “The members of an authority are to be treated as divided into different political groups when there is at least one political group in existence …”. There is no requirement that seats on committees only be given to those who have declared themselves to be members of groups and are eligible to be in a group. So Bob is not correct and just trying to deny representation from the very large number of voters in the borough who voted Conservative. Not democracy’s finest hour Bob!

    • That is not what the Borough Solicitor, the Local Government Association or the standard legal text on Local Authority law says and it is not the advice the Borough Solicitor gave to the Labour Administration. Groups do not have to be ‘political’ many Councils have an ‘independent’ group, or even several such groups. However the minimum size of a group to be considered in the proportionality calculations, for entitlement to committee places, is 2.

      On the other hand, if you are arguing for proportional representation on the Borough Council do bring it on you will have my full support.

      • Maybe, but it is what the law says. The statement about entitlement is just wrong – the entitlement is to be a group. You do not have to have joined a group to be on a committee.

        No I don’t support PR but I hate gerrymandering!

  2. Of course it might be that Councillor Buckley is deemed to be of such calibre, that her presence on a Committee and the contribution and commitment that she makes is essential for the effectiveness of that Committee……irrespective of her political persuasion. As an aside, I am pleased that commonsense and decency prevailed and that a Liberal Democrat became the Deputy Mayor.

  3. Cllr Buckley makes a valuable contribution to the Council and we have no objection to her presence on committees.

    I am sorry to be being hard-nosed about this but it is an inter-party matter not a matter of personalities. Kath could continue to sit on Committees legitimately as a Labour nominee – which is the role she will be fulfilling. So long as she was identified as that I would have no objection.

    Cllr Cath Buckley – Labour nominee *

    * Elected as a Conservative

    Would have satisfied me.

    It is the collusion between Labour and the Conservatives to, in effect, maintain a de-facto Conservative group when there is no longer a de-jure Conservative group that has made me cross.

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