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Key decisions must be taken by elected councillors not faceless officials

Luton’s Liberal Democrat Councillors have welcomed a decision by backbench councillors to review the number of decisions that are taken by Council officers.

Elected councillors launched a formal review of delegated powers at Constitution Committee last week after the Overview and Scrutiny Committee agreed to refer a call by Liberal Democrat councillor Martin Pantling to look again at decisions that should be taken by councillors.

Councillors in all parties now seem concerned at the number of decisions Labour delegated from 2007 to 2011. The issue has gained some attention in the context of the Old Drill Hall, where neither councillors nor officers have yet put their hands up to deciding to sell the site for use as a community centre after its long-standing designation for housing.

All councillors have now been asked to identify areas where they believe elected councillors, not paid officials, should take the key decisions.

Liberal Democrat Deputy Group Leader, Martin Pantling comments:

“I’m pleased that the concern I raised over how many decisions are now being taken by officials has been echoed by backbench colleagues across political groups. People don’t go to the polls to elect their local councillors only to find out they don’t have any power because too many decisions have been handed to unelected officials.”

“We’re lucky to have in Luton a professional officer team who are very capable of delivering for the town. But they shouldn’t be left to guess what councillors want, or be hung out to dry for decisions that have been taken because of political pressure behind closed doors.”

“The debacle over the Drill Hall is a classic example of what happens when lines are blurred as to who is responsible for taking key decisions. It would seem that nobody in particular took the decision to agree the sale. Most people can think of numerous other examples.”

“With a new Council in place, this is an ideal time to put things right for the next four years. I hope councillors of all parties will seize it so residents can see some real transparency.”

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