Majority of Labour councillors reject Lib Dem nomination for Chair of watchdog committee

On Monday, 16th May at the Annual Meeting of Haringey Council at Alexandra Palace, the majority of Labour councillors blocked the Lib Dem nomination for the position of Chair of the council’s watchdog committee, with 4 Labour councillors abstaining.

Cllr Pippa Connor in Priory Park with Alexandra Palace in the background

The majority of Labour councillors prevented a Lib Dem councillor from taking up the Chair of the council’s watchdog scrutiny committee. Cllr Pippa Connor, the Lib Dem nominee, is instead now Vice-Chair of the committee.

The Lib Dem opposition councillor was nominated for the position by her Lib Dem colleague Cllr Bob Hare who spoke eloquently in favour of an opposition chair of the committee.

Cllr Connor was prevented from taking up the position of Chair by the majority of Labour councillors, despite being well-qualified and many other councils having their watchdog committees led by a member of the opposition.

In fact, in his speech, Cllr Hare cited the Centre for Public Scrutiny who said: “appointing minority (opposition) party Chairs helps to promote a non-partisan culture in Scrutiny and makes it more likely that Scrutiny Members (and Chairs) will think and act independently”. (Practice Guide - Scrutiny bodies: membership and political management 2014)

Cllr Hare went on to say that many councils have an opposition councillor chairing scrutiny including: Newcastle, Blaby in Leicestershire, Eastbourne, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire and Waveney.

The watchdog committee in Haringey which scrutinises decisions made by the Labour-run council will be headed up by Labour councillor Charles Wright.

Haringey Lib Dem Leader of the Opposition, Cllr Gail Engert, comments:

“Cllr Connor would have made an excellent Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee. As Vice-Chair last year she took on the difficult task of chairing the Budget Scrutiny meetings held with members of the public. She chaired these difficult and important meetings very effectively.

“Many councils have decided the opposition will chair the overview committee. However, Haringey Labour has once again failed to follow the examples of best practice provided by other councils. I think it is inappropriate that a Labour councillor is leading the committee that scrutinises the work of the Labour-run council.”

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