Tuesday, November 07, 2006

General Purposes/Way We Work Panel Report

At the meeting of the General Purposes Committee tonight it was agreed to retain the figure of £100,000 above which variances in the budget have to be reported to Cabinet. The officers had sought to increase this to £500,000 and with no limits on the number of budget variances. If this proposed amendment has to the constitution had been approved it would have potentially delegated huge powers to the officers in budgets. This also has a crucial outcome for scrutiny, if this figure has been increased to £500,000 it could have potentially weakened the role of Way We Work Panel in scrutinising budget variances. At the end of the day Cabinet members should be accountable for their decisions, officers are not accountable and we should have every right as members to ask the Cabinet about budget variances and to scruitnise the actions of the Council.

I did wonder tonight whether the minority Tory administration had sougt themselves to increase the limit to reduce their accountability on the matter and hide behind officers for their incompetence. After Cllr Peter Southgate who holds the balance of power along with his two Merton Park resident colleagues spoke against the change, the Tories on the committee led by Deputy Leader Sam George may have backtracked as they realised it would not get through Council where it has to approved and where they have no majority.

The other matter at the meeting was the abolition of the Staff consultative Committee which was a forum between staff and members to air grievances. With changes in HR practices in recent years the body had turned into a talking shop and had no powers. With decisions on HR delegated to Head of Paid Service(the Chief Exec) it made sense given the changing nature of a councillors role which should not be the day to day decisions on Council personnel matters these are best left to the officers.

Last night I also chaired the Council Way We Work Panel where we agreed to set up a taskforce on income generation. The meeting also discussed single status within the Council which I cannot discuss publicly as it was in closed session, all I can say is that negotiations are continuing on the issue and have not yet been resolved. A report was also given on consultants employed by the Council and the meeting also asked for a report to be given on legal fees occurred externally by the Council which should make interesting reading given all the outside legal advice the minority Tory administration have been seeking in the last six months. Finally the meeting also agreed the Age Discrimination Report.


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