A row has broken out over committee appointments at Crawley Borough Council just weeks after the election.
Although only a third of seats were up for grabs last month the Conservatives reduced Labour’s majority to just one.
Duncan Crow (Con, Furnace Green), leader of the Conservative Group at the council, believes this should have led to some Tories chairing or being vice chairmen of the major committees.
However, at CBC’s Annual Council meeting on Friday night nine Labour councillors were appointed to the major committee chairman and vice chairman positions, carrying extra remuneration known as Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs).
Members of the Cabinet, the mayor, and deputy mayor, all of which are held by Labour councillors, also receive SRAs.
Mr Crow, who is the only Conservative to receive an SRA as opposition leader, has attacked the decision as ‘undemocratic’ and ‘arrogant’.
But Peter Lamb (Lab, Northgate), leader of the council, said this was ‘utterly hypocritical’.
“The reason he phrased it ‘major committees’ is that he’s decided which are the major committees,” said Mr Lamb, adding that the Conservatives had seemed perfectly happy with the system when they were the party in control of the council. He also said that they showed no sign of wanting to reform Conservative-controlled West Sussex County Council committees to reflect the number of opposition seats.
“If they wanted to change the rules around that then they could do as some councils have done and change the constitution, but they didn’t, for whatever reason,” he added.
Mr Crow said: “This is the by far the most shameless example of blatantly undemocratic behaviour and arrogance I have seen in my 12 years as a councillor. Labour are completely ignoring what the voters of Crawley have just told them at the elections.”
He went on to add that under the previous Conservative administration roles were given to Labour councillors, particularly on the council’s scrutiny committee.
He continued: “The justification for allowing the opposition to scrutinise the council’s Cabinet could not be any stronger and yet Labour are running scared of the council being scrutinised.
“Most fair-minded councils elsewhere allow opposition involvement, but in Crawley given the 19/18 party split, we have what is likely to be the most extreme example of unfairness of any council in the whole country.”
Last week Mr Lamb also defended the span of almost four months between Cabinet meetings, as he said June’s provisional date was not required since they already had a Cabinet meeting scheduled before the next Full Council meeting.
While Mr Crow said it was logical to cancel meetings if there was no business to transact he thought the nearly four-month gap was ‘ironic’ since the Tories were criticised any time they cancelled a Cabinet meeting when the party controlled the council.
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