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Row as councillor claims oversight group being ‘bypassed’ by rival panel

PUBLISHED: 10:25 02 July 2020 | UPDATED: 10:25 02 July 2020

A row over claims scrutiny was being bypassed broke out at a Norfolk council meeting, after members objected to an informal panel assessing housing policies. Photo: Chris Bishop

A row over claims scrutiny was being bypassed broke out at a Norfolk council meeting, after members objected to an informal panel assessing housing policies. Photo: Chris Bishop

Archant

A row over claims scrutiny was being “bypassed” broke out at a Norfolk council meeting, after members objected to an informal panel assessing housing policies.

It came as one councillor defended the role of the scrutiny committee in ensuring residents received the best possible services.

During a meeting of Broadland Council’s oversight and scrutiny committee, held on Tuesday, June 23, councillors were debating topics for future meetings when it emerged that several housing policies were being discussed at an by a joint working party set up with South Norfolk Council.

Ken Kelly, Conservative member for Taverham South, said issues of housing allocation policy and affordable housing provision were being discussed by the panel.

And monitoring officer Emma Hodds said: “It is a cross-party group set up - it’s not making any decisions but it’s looking at the policies we’ve got.

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“It would be good to see what comes out of that working group to steer what scrutiny focuses on.”

But scrutiny chairman Steve Riley asked when the joint panel was publicised.

And Tony Adams, Conservative member for Taverham North, said: “I’m quite concerned about this - to me this seems to bypass this scrutiny committee. If there is a need for such a panel it should be drawn from this committee and South Norfolk scrutiny.”

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Ms Hodds said: “I think we’re using quite dangerous language here when we need to be careful.”

She said she would find out how the panel was formed and report back to the committee.

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It came as earlier in the meeting another councillor spoke out in defence of the role of the scrutiny committee, during a discussion on the annual report to the council.

The report described the role of scrutiny “in an age of austerity” as being a valued element of local democracy “only ” by supporting more cost-effective services.

Liberal Democrat councillor for Aylsham, Sue Catchpole, said: “The paragraph on page 19 I read with horror, I have to say.

“I’m sorry, I’m not doing this just to make sure everything is financially efficient - I’m doing this to make sure that residents get the best services they can.”

But Peter Bulman, Conservative councillor for Great Witchingham, said he was “entirely comfortable” with the wording on efficiencies.

The committee agreed to alter the wording to remove the word “only” but keep the reference to cost-effective services.

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