Opposition return to Falkirk Council committee meetings

FALKIRK. Municipal Buildings. Falkirk Council. Falkirk District Council. FDC.

FALKIRK. Municipal Buildings. Falkirk Council. Falkirk District Council. FDC.

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After two years, members of the largest opposition group in Falkirk Council will once again attend all committee meetings.

SNP councillors stopped attending executive and scrutiny committees in May 2013 in a row over a structures shake-up.

The changes were introduced to streamline decision making and meant there were fewer committees to attend.

However, with a Labour majority, the Nationalists said it left them unable to adequately represent their constituents.

The council’s failure to have both sides represented at all meetings earned them a rap from the Audit Commission, who attended a special meeting of Falkirk Council on Tuesday.

The meeting heard that a working group with members from Labour, SNP and non-aligned independents, taking part alongside council officers, eventually reached an agreement.

After five meetings, the group compromised, agreeing there should be two scrutiny committees of eight members each – four from the administration and four from the opposition - and both chaired by a member of the largest opposition. One group will scrutinise internal service and the other external organisations.

It was agreed the provost should be questioned on civic matters during question time and that questions that should be dealt with by officers no longer be included on agendas.

SNP members asked for a six-month review proposal to be removed.

Councillor Gerry Goldie said: “I attend meetings because I want to represent my community, it seems some of the opposition want the time to be out handing out flyers, or whatever they do, instead of doing what they were elected to do.”

Opposition leader Cecil Meiklejohn said: “The committees were not democratic and we did not have a fair voice. The administration wouldn’t move on this unfair set up.”

Councillor Craig Martin, council leader, said: “No political party or individual prevented them from representing their constituents, it was entirely their own decision to abdicate responsibility. ”

“I welcome the u-turn, albeit months late. The important point is this administration ensured the business of Falkirk Council continued, protecting businesses and communities throughout the area.”