Opposition councillors have called for a change to the scrutiny committee that is charged with challenging decisions by Northampton Borough Council after the failed loan deal with Cobblers.
Leader of Northampton Labour Group, Councillor Danielle Stone, said the committee was traditionally chaired by an opposition councillor until two years ago when the chairman was changed to be from the ruling party. Councillor Stone says the committee has lost its independence.
But the claims have been dismissed by the Conservative leader, Councillor Mary Markham, who says the committee includes opposition members and that the decision to loan the money to Northampton Town was not called-in at the time by Labour.
Councillor Stone said: “In May 2013, David Mackintosh [then leader of Northampton Borough Council] unilaterally took the chair of the overview and scrutiny committee away from Labour, who was then the main opposition group.
“At the time Labour warned that giving the chair to one of his political allies inside the Conservative Group, Councillor Jamie Lane, was counterproductive and would greatly reduce the independence of overview and scrutiny.
“Two months later he made the decision to go ahead with the NTFC loan and there were no challenging questions from the overview and scrutiny committee. The chair of the audit committee is also a Conservative,” Councillor Stone added.
“This proves that having the overview and scrutiny committee dominated by the governing political group leads to bad policy making. I believe the chair of the overview and scrutiny committee needs to go back to the Opposition to ensure once again it has independence and boundaries from the administration,” Councillor Stone added.
In response, Councillor Markham, said: “I am disappointed by Cllr Stone’s comments which are both misleading and disrespectful to members of the overview & scrutiny committee and the officers who support it.
“We have a busy and wide ranging overview and scrutiny work programme that is determined by the committee as a whole, including opposition councillors. I am assured that this subject has never been put forward for inclusion by Labour members, nor was the decision called-in at the time, as is the prerogative of councillors if they feel that any decision the council makes needs to be subject to further scrutiny.
“I’d like to thank all members of this cross-party committee for the important role they play. I genuinely appreciate their input and disagree strongly with their group leader’s view of the committee’s work.”