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Luton Council has now published a damning review by the IDeA – the Improvement and Development Agency, who advise Councils on good practice – showing the need for root and branch change if key committees holding the Executive to account are to serve any purpose.

The report was drawn up in March, but has only just been published by the Council. Liberal Democrat Opposition councillors, who refused to nominate to Scrutiny Committees at this year’s AGM last month, have welcomed its publication.

Martin Pantling, a Liberal Democrat councillor who briefly chaired a Scrutiny committee in 2007/8, only to see Labour snatch the place back at the first opportunity, says:

“ This report totally vindicates our decision not to sit on Scrutiny Committees this year.”

“ Residents see no point in having Council committees ask their views on an issue, take evidence, and make recommendations, only to have Executive members who often don’t even attend the meeting ignore them. Increasingly, councillors see no point in it either.”

“ Even at Scrutiny, some councillors seem to think their job is to vote for the Party line right or wrong, or that their job is to block any different views or suggestions from going forward, often just because they’ve been proposed by a non-Labour councillor.”

“ A complete culture change is needed if the Council is to take better decisions and deliver improved services, and this report throws down the gauntlet to Labour.”

On the prospects of the Liberal Democrats rejoining any future Scrutiny process, he said:

“ I think we’d need some very clear evidence of an attitude change. The Liberal Democrats left Scrutiny because we honestly felt it had become futile, due to the Labour leadership’s determination to control everything. Even the IDeA found that our skills, time and knowledge were being wasted.”

“ Labour must now decide once and for all whether they want cross-party Scrutiny, and if so, what will be fundamentally different from now on. ”

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