New City Council committee ‘innovative’

A new City of Lincoln Council committee is an “interesting innovation”, according to the council leader.

The new Community Leadership Scrutiny Committee will scrutinise decisions and actions affecting Lincoln by organisations not under the council’s authority.

It was created by the council’s new Labour administration, that took control after winning the local elections on May 5. It will be chaired by Councillor Karen Lee.

In an interview with The Lincolnite, Councillor Ric Metcalfe, the Labour leader of City of Lincoln Council, said: “Although the council still performs a lot of important duties and responsibilities […] there are lots of both public and private bodies that make decisions that affect the wellbeing of the people who we’re elected to represent in the city.

“However we have rarely done any scrutinising of those decisions. So the reason we’ve come in and said we think we’re missing a trick here, and that actually we are uniquely placed as a city council […] to be seen to be speaking up on their behalf, not only on matters that the city council itself is responsible for, but for all of those other matters that are going to impact on them.

“Whether we’re talking about how good health services are, policing is, how good the services provided by the County Council are, what the impact of perhaps decisions made by private businesses may have.

“It’s turning scrutiny outwards to look at what decisions are being made by other people who impact on the people of Lincoln.”

Potential Issues

Local council scrutiny committees are cross-party, usually proportional to the political make-up of the council chamber.

They hold various parts of the council to account for its policies and decisions.

The cost of running this new committee will be “almost nothing”. However, there could be issues with the new set-up.

It relies on collaboration from organisations out of its direct control. This may not be an issue with public sector organisations, which will have a duty to work with committee members.

Private sector companies and individuals, though, have no obligation to collaborate.

“The council does have lots of powers available to it, through its planning system, through its other regulatory duties, so obviously we’re a body that people from time to time have to comply with if we serve orders on people.

“So the council in that sense has some powers,” Cllr Metcalfe said.

“A lot of organisations nowadays are much better at listening. Not least if there’s an element of self-interest and reputational damage, loss of custom, loss of confidence by service users.

“There may be all sorts of occasions when we can play to those things as a reason why they should come and talk to us.”

First on the agenda?

The committee will first meet in July. An agenda is yet to be set, but Metcalfe suggested that the recent cancellation of some late night bus services in the area would be a good starting point.

“I’m affected by this as I live a little way out and my last bus is now 7.15pm rather than 11.15pm, which is quite a big difference,” he said.

“This is really exercising us. It has a very adverse impact, obviously, on people.

“I know a lot of people I used to travel along with people on 7.45pm, 8.15pm buses who were finishing work often around the 7.30pm mark, of which there are a lot.

“People no longer work 9-5.”

Lincolnshire County Council and Stagecoach, the main parties in the decision, could have handled the situation better, he said. He has “already made representations” on the issue.

Lincoln’s Conservative councillors’ Twitter account recently claimed that had the Tories kept control in Lincoln, the “Ward Budget” scheme would have seen an increase in how much each councillor receives each year.

They were “to increase from £1000 in 2011, £1500 in 2012 and £2000 in 2013,” said one tweet.

Ward budgets will be reviewed along with all other council spending, said Cllr Metcalfe: “It’s on our long list of things to review. At the moment we’ve said let it carry on as is.”

Concerns have been raised about the alleged location of the Olympic torch party, when the flame comes to Lincoln.

It’s claimed that the party will be held at Yarborough Leisure Centre, though the council is yet to announce anything officially.

The council leader could not confirm anything, as the council has signed confidentiality agreements.

Photo: Samantha Fisher for The Lincolnite