During the lockdown Aberdeen City Council took a decision to suspend council and committee meetings temporarily in order to expedite decision making and free up senior officer time to focus on putting in place emergency planning to keep the city running and protect vulnerable people.
Ordinarily any dilution of the democratic process would be wholly unacceptable but we were in unprecedented times. Other than the planning committee and urgent licensing applications, only the council’s urgent business committee remained and its membership was then reduced to the five group leaders.
At this week’s urgent business committee opposition leaders called for proposals on restoring normal committee business from August to be brought to next month’s meeting. Conservative, Labour and Independent group leaders refused to even discuss this natter.
Another proposal to consult with all group leaders on a report coming to the next meeting, effectively offering an inclusive approach, was also blocked, effectively limiting any meaningful decision making to just three councillors.
Lib Dem councillor Steve Delaney said, “All parties agreed to suspend council committees until August. This was the right decision to make in March based on the information we had at that time. The immediacy of the response of the pandemic had to be prioritised over all else”.
“Those circumstances have now changed and it would be entirely feasible to restart committees and for that matter, the full council. Aberdeenshire Council have run all their meetings remotely during the lockdown as have a number of other councils, so there is no reason why Aberdeen City Council cannot do likewise”
The coalition leaders had the chance yesterday to review this decision and to start the process to bring all councillors back in August but they refused to do so. Three councillors are for all intents and purposes running things now. The three coalition group leaders have effectively suspended 39 councillors, including their own members, which surely calls into question their own fitness to hold office”.
“I have in the past described a number of decisions taken by the ruling administration as a blatant abuse of power but this decision really takes the biscuit! Just how long do they think they can block elected councillors from the scrutiny and decision making roles they were elected to carry out and on what basis?”