Southwark Liberal Democrats launched a scathing attack on Labour’s decision to abolish the Southwark Community Safety Scrutiny Commission.
The commission scrutinised the Labour-led council’s policies on crime. Its existence ensured that community safety was kept high on the agenda and that programmes designed to tackle crime would be thoroughly examined. This was particularly important when crime, especially knife-crime, violent crime and burglaries, have risen dramatically in recent years.
However, Labour have decided to abolish the commission altogether and passed the responsibility to the general Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC). This committee has been frequently dismissed as partisan and primarily acting as a platform for allowing Labour cabinet members to praise their own work, rather than a critical and independent body it is designed to be.
When the Liberal Democrats were in charge of the council, they ensured that the Chair of OSC was a Labour councillor, to ensure the committee’s independence. However, when Labour gained control of the council, they insisted that they should scrutinize themselves The Chair of the committee is meant to ensure voices critical of the administration are heard. Over the past year, the Chair has also been a Labour party whip, tasked to ensure that voices critical of the administration are silenced as much as possible. This glaring conflict of interest has left many despairing at the pointless partisanship of the committee, and wondered whether the extra allowance of £24,000 a year, second only to the Council Leader and Cabinet Members was justified.
Cllr William Houngbo, the Southwark Liberal Democrat council group’s Deputy Leader and Community Safety spokesperson said:
'Crime has increased rapidly from where it was just a few years ago. It has become more important than ever to make sure the council’s policies to fight both crime and the causes of crime are effective. Yet the Labour council has decided to abolish the Community Safety Scrutiny Commission dedicated to scrutinizing and improving its crime-fighting agenda.
‘Handing responsibility over to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee isn’t good enough. It doesn’t have that focus on fighting crime. Moveover, Labour has ensured that it’s controlled and dominated by its councillors – even by its own party whips! They’ve made sure that most of the time, it’s little more than a forum for Labour councillors to invite Labour Cabinet Members to boast about how wonderful Labour politicians are. Liberal Democrats on the Committee are doing a great job fighting against their self-praise and partisanship, but downgrading the analysis and scrutiny of crime in Southwark is a major step backwards.’
17th of June, 2019