A row broke out on South Gloucestershire Council when the ruling Conservative group destroyed the rights of opposition Councillors to force a rethink on bad decisions. The “reference up” used to be possible by minority groups, but can now only be done by the majority Conservatives.
Councillor Claire Young (Westerleigh) said: “Almost every council in the country has some ability for minority groups to force administrations to think again. We’ve gone from being uniquely open & democratic to uniquely oppressed. The first act of the Conservative administration was to destroy oversight – what are they planning to do next?
“Many times in the past, references up led to better decisions being made. It happened just a few months ago with a planning application for Top Yard in my ward, where complicated case law had been misapplied at the planning committee. The new rule says only the Conservative chair, or a majority of the committee, may refer an item to Council. When committees were making decisions about cuts to services that are vitally important to our residents, members could give the public another chance to raise their views in the public eye. Under the new rules that is highly unlikely to happen. Important or awkward decisions will be buried in committees. This would only be done by an administration afraid of scrutiny, and unwilling to hear debate.”