Green councillors raise alarm over local authorities shutting down scrutiny during coronavirus crisis

Green Party councillors have raised serious concerns that some local authorities are using the coronavirus epidemic to avoid scrutiny over their decision-making.

In a survey of 372 Green Party councillors representing wards on principal authorities across the country, more than half of respondents said the councils they were elected to were not maintaining proper scrutiny functions. [1]

Just 39% of councils have either already held an online scrutiny committee or were planning to, meaning the majority of councils were not having decisions properly scrutinised.

Meanwhile, almost a third of councillors said their councils had taken planning decisions out of the hands of councillors and into the hands of officers. [2]

Worryingly, only half had decided to allow members of the public to attend planning meetings online and object to proposals. [3]

Green Party co-leader Sian Berry, a councillor on Camden Council, said:

“These results show a worrying picture of a significant number of councils failing to maintain democratic and scrutiny functions during the coronavirus crisis.

“It is vital that local authorities are doing everything they can to ensure that democracy does not suffer during lockdown.

“Councillors need to be able to scrutinise the decisions councils are taking because they are on the frontline of responding to this pandemic and the need for social distancing.

“There is also a great risk that the public are being excluded from the decision making process and are seeing their democratic rights being reduced.”

ENDS 

Notes

1 Of the 372 Green Party councillors surveyed, 79 responded overall. Of these 21 said their councils had been “very poor” at maintaining scrutiny functions, while 22 said their council had been “quite poor”. A further 14 said their council had done “neither well nor poorly”.

2 Asked who was now making planning decisions on their council, 63% said by the usual planning committee of councillors, while 30% said using delegated or executive powers

3 Asked if public objectors were allowed to attend online and speak as usual at online planning or licensing committee meetings, 53% said yes, 24% said no and 23% said their council was undecided. 

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