Changes to the committee structure at Lichfield District Council must not lead to behind closed doors decision-making, a councillor has warned.

Lichfield District Council House

The proposals will see the number of overview and scrutiny groups reduced to one, with task groups set up to deal with issues instead.

A report to a meeting of Lichfield District Council last week said that such a move would “deliver a more efficient and effective” system.

Cllr Dave Robertson, Labour representative for Curborough ward, said that while he did not object to the idea, he did want reassurances over how such a system would work.

“Change is inevitable and finding new ways of doing things can generally bring up positive things.

“But I do have a concern about the transparency, availability and openness of those decision-making groups.

“I and many people would welcome a reassurance that even though this change to more task groups may be happening there will be a presumption of transparency and decisions won’t go back to being made behind closed doors.”

Cllr Dave Robertson, Lichfield District Council

Cllr Alan White, Conservative member for Whittington and Streethay, said the details of sessions needed to be recorded appropriately under the new system.

“Sometimes task groups themselves conduct business which comes to conclusions. The fact they met and that this is what they found is sometimes the only thing that appears on the minutes.

“That sometimes has the sense of not being particularly transparent that needs to be thought through.

Cllr Alan White, Lichfield District Council

“No less openness than there is currently”

Cllr Christopher Spruce

Cllr Christopher Spruce, who chairs the strategic overview and scrutiny committee, said he was confident that there would be no reduction in visibility of decision-making.

“I personally am very happy as the chairman of the task group that has put forward this suggestion that there would be a guarantee that there would be no less openness than there is currently.

“The idea is to make people more aware and not less.”

Cllr Christopher Spruce, Lichfield District Council

Cllr Steve Norman, leader of the Labour opposition group said the proposals would make council business more efficient.

“Five years ago I asked how much scrutiny cost – then it was £138,000 a year.

“That’s one of the reasons we do need to look at this because of the amount of officer time involved in the scurtiny process.

“The system of lots of task groups and one scrutiny committee has proven to be successful elsewhere.”

Cllr Steve Norman, Lichfield District Council

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  1. Why not record these meetings and make them available for public viewing, that would certainly be open and transparent, which is what the Leader says he wants to see in the future
    Now that would make for interesting viewing

  2. It is imperative that no decisions are taken behind closed doors. That would be like the secret “handshake” haha. Whooo remember those handshakes we saw at the beginning of all this hahaha. I do. Transparency! Is Key!. Anything that means decision making is transparent for all to see is in the interest of all of us.

  3. What about the important ‘Overview and Scrutiny’ the Public themselves can provide by being able to attend those O & S meetings? (Virtually at present & physically in normal times.) We will lose that scrutiny , and along with the meetings we’ll lose Public access to the Reports which O & S Committees receive – Reports which the Public can (at the moment!) see online.

  4. Loss of the Overview & Scrutiny Committees will mean the loss of the Public ability to attend and watch how business is conducted at them. The Public will also lose the ability to view online the Reports these Committees currently receive. That will not be good for Public Scrutiny or Democratic Accountability.

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