Opposition: Give us a greater role on key decisions

Wigan Town Hall
Wigan Town Hall

Wigan’s non-Labour councillors should be allowed a greater role in scrutinising key decisions, the borough’s opposition leader has said.

Coun Michael Winstanley called on the ruling party to free up its stranglehold on overview committees at the latest meeting of the full council.

The calls come as plans to merge the town hall’s standards committee with its audit counterpart have been approved.

Responding to a report on the work of the various scrutiny bodies in the past 12 months, Orrell representative Coun Winstanley said: “All our scrutiny committees are chaired by members of the majority group, the audit and governance committee is chaired by a member of the majority group.

“I was reading a House of Commons briefing report on overview and scrutiny in preparation for this meeting, and I’m not saying Wigan is alone in doing this, as around 60 per cent of councils around the country only have the majority group chairing scrutiny committees.”

Scrutiny committees examine the council’s plans and can recommend amendments to the ruling cabinet.

Coun Winstanley added: “This is not a reflection on the capability or the competence of any of the chairs of the scrutiny committees but this report is like (the council) setting your own homework and then marking your own homework.

“The fact of the matter is that we could do things better. You have an opportunity (for the next municipal year) to let the opposition have more of a say on overview and scrutiny and chair one of these committees.

“Opposition should be allowed a greater say.”

Council leader Lord Smith outlined his fellow cabinet members’ role in the scrutiny process.

He told the chamber: “Members know that as cabinet members we do not have any influence on the scrutiny work or choose the members of the scrutiny committees obviously because they are scrutinising us.

“But I know the members of those committees will take on board these comments (from the opposition).

“We do look forward, as a cabinet, to receive the comments from the individual scrutiny committees and we take them very seriously. And, where appropriate, we amend our plans.”

Elected members earlier approved cost-saving plans to merge the standards committee with the audit and governance committee.

Officers say the merger will mean a saving of £3,645 and had become a possibility as the standards committee was dealing with fewer cases due to behaviour among elected members improving.