Sunderland's ruling Labour group refuses opposition bid for more key roles for councillors
Sunderland’s ruling Labour group has refused demands for more opposition councillor posts, despite its recent bruising at the polls.
The number of red seats in the city council chamber was slashed from 48 to 42 earlier this month (May 6), giving it a working majority of just five.
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were Wearside’s big winners at the latest round of local elections, but their bid for a bigger say on Sunderland City Council’s committees was rebuffed as ‘shabby politics’ by city leaders.
“This is a modest amendment to give some political proportionality to the committees at [the city council] and ensure they work effectively,” said Liberal Democrat leader Niall Hodson.
“Opposition groups have repeatedly made the case that there ought to be more oversight of scrutiny, as it is widely accepted that is best practice in most councils.
“We ought to make sure scrutiny is as robust as possible and that committees do not smack of cronyism and Labour marking its own homework.”
Cllr Hodson, who was re-elected in his Millfield ward two weeks ago, was speaking at last night’s (Wednesday, May 19) annual meeting of the council, the first time city councillors have met in person for more than a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The venue was moved to the Beacon of Light to allow social distancing, rather than the Civic Centre, but proceedings are available to view on YouTube.
Proposed appointments put forward by council leader Graeme Miller included just three vice chairman positions for opposition councillors.
An amendment put forward by Conservative leader Antony Mullen requested a further vice chair position and a chairman’s position be allocated to the opposition to reflect Labour’s ‘slim majority’.
But this was rejected by council leader Graeme Miller.
He said: “I’m not going to get into shabby politics at the annual meeting and Mayor Making, which should be about the outgoing mayor and the new mayor.
“This is playing cheap politics.
“While I appreciate your words, I disagree with them and the Labour group will not accept it, given the clear political grandstanding.
“This is about headlines when it should be about a new political year.”