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'We don’t mark our own homework' - Labour hits back at attack on council scrutiny

Members of Sunderland’s ruling Labour group have hit back at claims they “mark their own homework”, after calls for them to relinquish key jobs.

By Nic Marko
Sunday, 22nd May 2022, 8:29 am

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The party, which secured majority control of Sunderland City Council for another year earlier this month, has ensured it will continue to chair committees and panels responsible for scrutinising the work of local authority chiefs.

But Wearside’s Liberal Democrats have called for these positions to be shared more widely between political groups, reflecting the make-up of the city council.

Group leader Cllr Niall Hodson stressed “Labour can’t continue to mark its own homework”.

City Hall, Sunderland

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But council leader Councillor Graeme Miller hit back at the accusations.

He said: “We don’t mark our own homework, at the end of the day there are more opposition councillors on scrutiny because my executive are not allowed to be on.

“If scrutiny is not working properly it’s [the opposition’s] fault, because whilst we may chair the meetings, you’re making up a large part of the membership of scrutiny committees.”

Sunderland Council leader Graeme Miller.

He also argued the latest local elections showed the city backed the party to run the council.

Cllr Miller continued: “The Labour vote went up in the city, people clearly are comfortable with Labour councillors being in charge of the city.

“I would ask that councillors continue to give into their committees the way that they in the main have and continue to do so.

“I’m happy with the structure that the Labour group has agreed and has put in place.”

Liberal Democrat leader Niall Hodson

The comments came after Cllr Hodson reiterated, as he has done at previous annual meetings, that scrutiny chair positions should be allocated differently and across parties.

He said: “It’s very clear that we need to reform the way scrutiny is done in Sunderland, that’s why we are going through a process of consultation on finding a new way forward.

“I really must emphasise once again that the Labour group can’t continue to mark its own homework, for the sake of transparency and accountability on this council we need to have some opposition-led scrutiny.”

There are currently four council scrutiny committees in Sunderland, all chaired by Labour councillors, with three of the vice chairs also from the leading party, along with one Conservative.