Conservative Group Leader on Brighton & Hove City Council – Cllr. Geoffrey Theobald – is issuing a final call to the Labour Group to back his proposal for fully democratic, politically balanced meetings when the authority reverts to a ‘committee system’ of governance in May.
Instead of an open and democratic multi-party Committee System which all three political groups on the Council signed up to in December, the Green Administration is now planning to ditch a key aspect of the new system – political proportionality.
At a special Full Council meeting today (Thursday 26th April) the Greens are proposing that the most important committees, including the powerful Policy & Resources Committee that will take decisions on key budgetary and policy matters, will have 50% of its members drawn from the Green Party despite them holding only 42% of seats on the Council. This will mean that they can force through any decision they want with the casting vote of the Committee Chair. The Green’s plan surprisingly has the backing of the opposition Labour Group.
The Conservative proposal would increase the number of members on the Policy & Resources Committee from 10 to 12 to enable genuine political balance, as it was under the previous Conservative Administration. Conservatives are also proposing to reduce the number of committees by one, saving council taxpayers £15,000 per year.
Cllr. Theobald said: “This is a blatant attempt at a power grab by the Greens and I urge Cllr. Mitchell and the rest of the Labour Group to join with me in putting a stop to it. The Greens need to recognise that they don’t have anything like a majority of seats on the Council and attracted only 32% of the vote at last May’s local elections. When the Committee System previously operated in 2007-8 under the last Conservative Administration, there were 15 members of Policy & Resources Committee – 7 Conservative and 8 opposition. This was despite the Conservatives holding 26 of the 54 seats on the Council, compared to the 23 now held by the Greens. Similarly, under the Labour minority Administration from 2003 to 2007, the opposition groups held 9 out of the 15 places on Policy & Resources. I, therefore, find it surprising that Cllr. Mitchell looks set to allow the Greens to have a majority.”
Cllr. Garry Peltzer Dunn, Conservative member on the working group said: “This is an example of blatant political gerrymandering by the Greens and I feel very let down by them. At the outset, we were all agreed that we should have the most democratic system possible. If the Greens are allowed to get their way, we will be back to the same rubber-stamping operation that we have under the current Cabinet system. The residents of Brighton & Hove deserve better.”