A Cambridge City Council committee meeting scheduled to scrutinise the council’s draft budget was last night unexpectedly prevented from doing so. In a surprise move the Labour Committee chair ruled that there could be no questions and no discussion on the budget because ‘the right people weren’t present’.
Liberal Democrat members of the committee had singled out four items for discussion and hoped to win the committee’s support for them to be reconsidered by the Labour Executive. They were concerned about proposed closures of public toilets, a reduction in public realm enforcement team addressing littering, fly tipping, dog control, the discontinuation of the Big Weekend and the elimination of bus subsidies, which significant numbers of people had identified as problematic in the council’s recent consultation exercise.
Labour’s Committee chair Richard Robertson was only willing to formally forward the Liberal Democrat proposal to the Executive without allowing the committee to discuss whether it supported the request for reconsideration.
Lib Dem group Leader Cllr Tim Bick said after the meeting:
“I have never experienced such a shambles. The committee had scrutiny of the budget on its agenda, yet when we got to it the Chair and other Labour councillors closed the whole thing down without allowing any discussion. It was not true that the right people weren’t present - they were: they just weren’t allowed to be asked and answer questions. There are valid concerns about some of the measures in the budget, which were reinforced by the public consultation results. We merely wanted to discuss these and ask the Executive to think again about them before rubber stamping them through. It is an incredible denial of democracy to shrug your shoulders and avoid considering the issues. It rather looks like Labour councillors aren’t interesting in scrutiny. If so, the city will be the poorer as ideas from all sides are better through pressure testing. A steamroller is rarely a good device for listening and thinking before acting.”