A "POWER grab" by Wirral’s ruling Labour group has demolished the built-in checks and balances designed to prevent abuse in local government, a senior opposition councillor has claimed.
The allegation has been refuted by council leader Cllr Phil Davies.
Lib Dem councillor Stuart Kelly is furious over moves by Labour to remove Conservative and Liberal Democrat chairmen of council scrutiny committees.
He revealed that special rules in the council’s constitution allowing executive decisions to be made in certain circumstances, had been invoked almost a dozen times over the past 12 months.
Councillor Kelly explained: “These rules allow executive decisions to be made in a hurry without the normal publishing requirements and ‘call in’ procedures. For example last year they were used to ensure that the council was able to draw down additional Government funding for repairing pot holes.
“Before making a decision the Labour cabinet had to consult and obtain the agreement of an opposition member before making a decision that fell outside the usual rules’ “It is all part of the checks and balances built into the system to prevent abuse.”
Councillor Kelly went on: “This year executive decisions can now be made if one Labour cabinet members agrees with another Labour committee chair – the checks and balances have been removed.
“Democratic institutions work best when checks and balances are built in. Labour’s power grab has removed these balances and I believe this could place the council at risk. It’s a recipe for disaster.”
Councillor Davies said: “There is no legal requirement for us to give the chairs of scrutiny committees to opposition members.
“There are still significant safeguards, checks and balances in place even though they don’t chair these committees.
“We have a new procedures where opposition councillors can question any member of the cabinet at council meetings without advance notice.
“And we will continue with our leaders’ meeting in which the concerns of oppositions leaders can be raised with me.”