Following the leader of the county’s Liberal Democrats exclusive interview with the County Times last week, James Walsh has issued further criticism of the local Conservative group for ‘ignoring ‘ the council’s constitution.
Dr Walsh, County Hall’s longest serving councillor, has lambasted the Tories for ignoring the Council’s written constitution in their grabbing all the chairman and vice-chairman positions on the four Select (or Scrutiny) Committees which probe and question all decisions made by the eight Conservative cabinet members.
Dr Walsh has 40 years experience serving as a GP in West Sussex, served on the old Worthing District Health Authority, chaired the old West Sussex Social Services Committee as well as the West Sussex GP’s Medical Committee, and he has served on the Health Select Committee since its inception.
However his nomination for the vice-chairmanship of the Health & Adult Services Select Committee was overlooked by the Conservative group who, in his words, ‘on a whipped vote elected a councillor whose profession had been selling ice-creams and sweets, and who only recently joined the Health Select Committee’.
Dr Walsh said “ The position is quite clear. The council’s Constitution specifies three conditions for the chairman and vice-Chairman of each committee. Firstly that they should be appointed on their merits; should normally be from different political parties, and that there should be discussion between the group leaders prior to the selection.
“All three provisions were breached. My discussion with the Conservative leader consisted of me being told that they would be taking all the positions, and ignore the “different” parties rule.
Dr Walsh added: “It is this sort of nonsense which lives local government such a bad name, and further stokes the image of the Tories being out of touch with the electorate.
Last year they took away the only opposition Scrutiny Chairmanship, and in protest we refused to accept any vice-chairs. We, together with UKIP and Labour were not asking for any chairs this time ( although that would be sensible), but only for one vice-chairmanship. It means that the Conservative cabinet makes all the decisions, and every committee that scrutinises those decisions will have a Tory Chairman and Vice-Chairman, as well as a majority on every committee. This makes them verily judge and jury across the whole range of council activities.”
Dr Walsh added “The Conservatives now have an huge “payroll” vote, with 24 Tories out of 46 taking an extra £293,000 in allowances over and above the basic £11,000 pay that each councillor receives. By contrast the 3 opposition parties have 5 extra allowances between them, totalling some £34,000 in total. The public and the Taxpayers’ Alliance do not see these as all justified, or value for money.”
The Conservative group leader has been approached for comment but as yet no response has been received.