Angry Tories in rebellion over meetings

Councillors - including at Blackpool Town Hall pictured - have been voting on proposals for a Lancashire Combined Authority

Councillors - including at Blackpool Town Hall pictured - have been voting on proposals for a Lancashire Combined Authority

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A row is brewing at Blackpool Town Hall over a change in format for the full council meetings which has been described as ‘anti-democratic’.

Councillors from the opposition Conservative group are furious over the change which means councillors holding specific roles will not be automatically available for questioning at tonight’s meeting.

Coun Tony Williams

Coun Tony Williams

They say the leader of the council Simon Blackburn, Labour, has gone too far in altering proceedings where time limits for questions have been imposed and he, deputy leader Gillian Campbell and cabinet secretary Graham Cain will report and take questions on behalf of key portfolio holders.

Conservative group leader Tony Williams said the move further centralises power in the Town Hall and leaves the public with less chance of holding their political representatives to account.

He said: “The leader of the council has decided that portfolio holders will not present their reports at the full council meeting. Instead they will be handled by the leader, the deputy leader and the cabinet secretary.

“They will cover the reports and take questions from the councillors.

My duty is to represent the people properly not save time

“We may not be able to question the portfolio holders themselves and these cabinet members will not have to stand on their own two feet.

“We are not happy about this. It’s not democratic, it means that the portfolio holders who are getting well paid for their jobs will not be held to account.

“They are in very responsible positions and they should be speaking for the council.

“The members of the public rely on the opposition whoever that may be to ask questions and scrutinise council decision. This means we won’t be able to do that properly.”

Coun Lily Henderson

Coun Lily Henderson

He added that councillors only have a limited time in the meeting to ask questions.

“There is only a short time given for questions before the red light comes on and this will prevent proper debate.”

Highfield Tory councillor Lily Henderson said: “It is a disgrace, I am totally opposed to this.

“My duty is to represent the people properly and ask questions, not to save time in meetings.”

Anchorsholme councillor Paul Galley said it was a worrying development for local democracy.

He said: “The person responsible for delivering a particular service should be accountable.

“People might say it is just town hall politics, but if you wanted to know more about why the weeds are not being dealt with in your area or problems with parking or why money is being spent in a particular way, then we can’t now ask the people who hold that portfolio.

“He is cutting the time for questions and proper debate.”

The leader of Blackpool Council Simon Blackburn declined to comment on the issue.

It is understood the changes were brought in by the ruling Labour group to save time in the meetings as the three top positions were ultimately responsible for the departments and any questions could be delegated to the individual portfolio holders if necessary.