There has been a third night of constitutional chaos at the Town Hall, as last night's Assets, Regeneration & Growth Committee was abandoned following legal advice that the political balance of all committees may be incorrectly calculated.
The committee’s members were informed by council officers that no further committees could make any decisions until after further legal advice had been sought, and probably until after the next full Council meeting on 15 July when any necessary changes to political balance and the constitution could be made.
The ramifications of this latest revelation are that:
- all decisions taken in the three committees already held (Policy & Resources, Performance & Contract Management and Environment) are null and void, and possibly unlawful;
- the Assets and Regeneration Committee was briefly opened and then abandoned yesterday evening;
- it appears that no committee will be able to make lawful decisions before the next Full Council meeting;
- the political balance calculations for all committees appear to be under question
- even the Constitution, Ethics and Probity Committee that would ordinarily make recommendations to council on constitutional changes cannot do so
This latest constitutional cock-up follows the shambolic Annual Meeting on 2nd June where 11 councillors were appointed to the Environment Committee that only has 10 seats; members’ items on two committees submitted within the deadline being disallowed; and the adjournment of the Environment Committee to seek legal advice on having too many councillors.
Leader of the Barnet Labour Group, Cllr Alison Moore said: “This is a real constitutional crisis now as it looks like no decisions can be made for another 3 weeks. What will happen in the case of the parents of Oakleigh School pupils who are waiting for a decision on short breaks cuts at the Children’s Committee next week?
“The Barnet Tories have presided over one constitutional cock-up after another – and we’re just three weeks into the municipal year – they really need to get a grip because Barnet is fast becoming a laughing stock, and people will begin to lose whatever confidence they had in the decision-making process.”
Labour Spokesperson for Assets, Regeneration & Growth, Cllr Pauline Coakley Webb said: “The catalogue of chaos at Tory run Barnet council now goes far beyond anything I have ever seen before as a Barnet councillor.
From emails that disappear to all manner of council phone numbers which come up as 'number unobtainable ' if there are too many incoming calls, we now find that all the committees are ' illegal' and no decisions can be taken until after the council meeting on 15th July. Decisions will be delayed, committee schedules are now behind, and there will be a domino effect on all the future work plans.
The time and money wasted in meeting deadlines for committees from which no decisions have been made is breathtakingly incompetent, unprofessional, and an obvious example of how not to run a council.”