Anger as bid to stop Sandwell's ruling Labour group 'marking own homework' is thwarted

A bid to stop the ruling Sandwell Labour group from “marking its own homework” was thwarted during a stormy council meeting.

Tory councillor William Gill challenged authority leader Rajbir Singh on his appointments. Photos: Sandwell Council
Tory councillor William Gill challenged authority leader Rajbir Singh on his appointments. Photos: Sandwell Council

The 10-member Conservative opposition argued the proposal to award ‘cabinet advisory roles’ to Labour councillors would not provide any scrutiny.

But as Great Barr member William Gill debated the issue and started asking questions at the meeting on Monday, he was interrupted by Labour on a “point of order” and the issue was moved on.

A report presented by authority leader Rajbir Singh, said the purpose of the cabinet advisory roles was to “provide alternative views, opinions and advice on wider, often cross-cutting issues and matters with a view to supporting and enabling more informed policy and strategy development.”

The roles covering six different portfolios were awarded to Labour councillors Ahmad Bostan, Peter Hughes, Richard McVittie, Gurdesh Gill, Elaine Costigan and Kay Millar.

Councillor Gill said: “I’ve actively pushed the leader to reconsider this role of cabinet advisors because of their inability to provide the scrutiny that Sandwell residents have been crying out for.

“The cabinet advisors have been deemed to provide an additional mechanism and opportunity for important views and opinions to be ascertained.

“These Labour party members are unable to do this as they are under the whip. However that can come from members of the opposition.

“This role serves a minimum purpose at best and wont provide the scrutiny the residents want and deserve.

“They’ve had the ability to mark their own homework for far too long and Councillor Singh has emphasised progress but won’t allow it to occur.

“The only people who the leader wants to provide scrutiny are the ones under his whip.

“I sent an open letter urging the leader to scrap this self-gratifying position and replace it with a shadow cabinet. You have 10 elected members here ready and willing to provide scrutiny but you won’t recognise it.

“Why won’t you recognise us as a shadow cabinet? Why won’t you seek alternative views?”

At this point, Labour’s Steve Melia said: “Point of order. Was it a question or was it a debate? Can I move we take a vote?”

After this was passed and the debate ended, Conservative Laured Kalari said: “Is there any point in anyone debating if everyone is so scared of having a different opinion put forward, the Labour guys are going to move to a vote?

“If everyone is scared of a bit of scrutiny or different opinion, is there any point in us being here?”

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