The Liberal Democrats Chair of Scrutiny on Swansea Council, Mary Jones has demanded to know what the ruling group have to hide after Labour Councillors voted to block scrutiny of the 400% increase in the cost of demolishing Oceana.
At the Council’s Scrutiny Programme Committee on Monday night, Labour Councillors combined to prevent the setting up of a panel to look into the affair, despite Welsh Government rules that prevent party whips influencing the scrutiny process. The Council Leader also attended and spoke against it being scrutinised further, in defiance of rules that insist that the scrutiny and executive roles on the council must remain separate.
Commenting on the decision, Scrutiny Chair Councillor Mary Jones said: “The argument put forward by the Leader that because a Cabinet Advisory Committee is looking into Oceana there is no need for further scrutiny is fallacious. Cabinet Advisory Committees are explicitly not scrutiny committees and are not allowed to act as such. The Local Government Act 2000, says that anyone making decisions in the running of the council cannot take part in the examination of decisions they have made. That principle is being ignored by the council leadership.
“It seems that Labour will do anything to stop councillors investigating the Oceana fiasco. We need answers as to why surveys did not discover the amount of asbestos in the building before the contract was let for demolition given that this was a common material used at the time Oceana was constructed. We also need to quiz Cabinet members as to why they did not go back out to tender to get best value for taxpayers when it was reported that a £1 million contract had turned into a £4 million liability.
“These attempts by the council leadership to take control of and derail the scrutiny process are serious breaches of protocol and go against everything the Welsh Government has been trying to do to empower back bench and opposition councillors and guarantee the independence of scrutiny. I will be writing to the Chair of the Council’s Audit Committee and the Wales Audit Office demanding that they investigate the way that the council leadership is seeking to bully councillors to prevent them doing their job of scrutinising the executive.”