Lib Dem resigns from Brent's budget scrutiny taskforce
- Credit: Archant
A Liberal Democrat councillor resigned from Brent's budget scrutiny taskforce on Tuesday over its decision to carry out its work behind closed doors.
Cllr Anton Georgiou (Alperton) said he had hoped for more public involvement in the scrutiny of spending plans, but that senior officers intervened.
In a statement he wrote: "It is my view that democratic scrutiny in Brent is being curtailed and undermined by those who it exists to hold to account."
The taskforce was formed in July and met behind closed doors in August and September.
He said: "From the offset, as soon as we had decided on our work programmes, interventions by senior officers including Carolyn Downs made me question whether or not Brent was serious about scrutiny."
He said the taskforce agreed to amend the planned work programme after Ms Downs called for a private meeting.
"The residents need to know what's going on in an organisation that essentially dictates some of the things that have an impact on their lives and the public services that they are receiving," he said.
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"Ultimately this is going to be a closed-door process with little-to-no engagement from anyone other than members of the council and elected members."
A Brent Council spokesperson said: “Under the council’s constitution, it is the role of the cabinet to develop proposals for the council’s budget, undertaking consultation to inform those proposals and comply with legislation.
"The role of scrutiny is to hold cabinet to account and make recommendations to ensure that the cabinet’s decisions are in the public interest and good value for money
“Council officers have spent a considerable amount of time with the Budget Scrutiny Task Group to support members to make meaningful inquiries into the council’s budget for 2022/23.
“Officers have suggested that the scrutiny task force may wish to make recommendations to the council on how there can be a more engaging public consultation process for the next year when the council is due to provisionally set a longer term budget.
"This would be a genuinely meaningful consultation as opposed to this coming year – as a two year budget has already been provisionally set out following consultation and scrutiny in February this year.
“It is the role of officers to advise members but ultimately it is elected members who make the final decision and, in this case, the Scrutiny Task Group has decided how it wants its work to progress this year.
“It is disappointing that Cllr Georgiou does not want to continue a role in this task group, but the budget scrutiny process will continue as an important function of the council as it does every year.
"The council’s budget each year is widely consulted on with both residents and elected members at a series of Brent Connects meetings where the detailed proposals are presented and debated.
"These proposals are also made public on the council’s website before councillors debate and agree a final budget at budget full council – which is also a public meeting open to all.”