Adur, West & East Worthing Party including East Arun


West Sussex Liberal Democrat Councillors yesterday (Friday) decided to boycott the Scrutiny (Select) Committee vice-chairmanships at County Hall after the ruling Conservatives grabbed all the Committee chairmanships and allowances for themselves.

Dr James Walsh, deputy group leader said

“The Tories want to be judge and jury for all their policies in West Sussex ignoring advice from The independent Centre for Public Scrutiny (CfPS) who recommend scrutiny (select committee) chairs should be shared with opposition Councillors, and Parliament itself shares the chairs of its Select Committees according to party seats in the Commons. On that basis alone the Lib Dems, with a quarter of the seats at County Hall should have at least one chairmanship.The whole basis of scrutiny of Cabinet decisions is that it should not be party political, but unbiased and open-minded, and generally that has worked well in West Sussex over the last 10 years when ‘Cabinet style’ governace was introduced.

The Tory takeover means that all policy decisions taken by the Tory cabinet members will be scrutinised by 4 scrutiny (select) committees all with a paid Conservative chairman and a majority of Tory members. That is simply undemocratic and unfair.”

Morwen Millson, group leader said

“We have tried patiently to get common sense to prevail, but the Conservative group would not budge on this. Our decision to boycott the Select committee vice-chairs has been taken more in sorrow than in anger.  It is good practice by the vast majority of councils to share scrutiny chairmanships according to party strengths. It will not be understood by voters if the Conservative group wants effectively to introduce a one-party state at County Hall. We have not taken this decision lightly, but feel that it is the only way that we can try and get reason, openness, transparency and accountability to prevail.

“West Sussex County Council has always operated well as an inclusive elected member organisation, harnessing all member talents regardles of political allegiance, but this is a retrograde step by the Tories which will inevitably introduce more divisiveness and rancour into our procedures.”

Dr James Walsh added

“This really does show who is raking in the cash for themselves at County Hall. The Tories have got more snouts in the taxpayers’ trough, and now they are just that bit deeper too!”

West Sussex County Council paid £373,812 in extra “Special Responsibility Allowances” to some 33 members last year, including the Chairman, Leader, Cabinet Members, their deputies, and to Select Committee chairmen. Of these 29 are Conservatives, who received a total of £335,175, 3 were Liberal Democrats a total of £31,596, and one Labour at £7,039. The Tories voted to reduce the Liberal Democrat share to £22,837, whilst keeping £326,416 for themselves. The make up of the County Council is 49 Conservative, 18 Liberal Democrat, 2 Labour and 2 independents.