Row over town council committee membership
Opposition members were excluded from an important town council committee despite having a seat in previous years, in a change criticised as “disproportionate and a disservice to residents”.
At its annual meeting, Madeley Town Council appointed new members of its Finance and General Purposes Committee (FGP), with neither its sole Conservative nor Liberal Democrat members getting a seat.
Lib Dem councillor Greg Spruce said he was “disappointed” by the proposal and tabled a motion, seconded by Conservative Dave Wright, aiming to guarantee one opposition seat on the nine-member group, in line with the allocation agreed in previous years.
Meeting minutes say Labour member Paul Watling pointed out that committee seats are continuously “rotated”, and proposals from the committee are presented to and discussed at full sessions of the town council anyway.
Councillor Spruce’s motion was defeated in a vote, but he and Councillor Wright were allocated a seat on two smaller committees.
At the town council’s 2020-21 AGM, Cllr Watling proposed a FGP membership list that consisted of nine Labour members.
Minutes say Councillor Spruce’s amendment asked “that one member of the opposition groups is allocated a place on the Finance and General Purposes Committee in line with the 2019-20 allocation of seats”.
In 2019-20, Councillor Spruce, who represents Woodside, sat on the FGP and Environment committees, while Councillor Wright was on the Leisure and Community Committee.
Arguing for his amendment, Councillor Spruce said: “The FGP Committee, as we are all aware, is where strategic and spending decisions are discussed and prepared for full council.
“This year it is solely Labour members. Surely that is not in the public interest to have a committee without any plurality of voices?”
The minutes add: “Councillor Spruce told the meeting he was disappointed by the proposals and felt that having no opposition group councillors on the committee was disproportionate and did a disservice to residents.
“In response, Councillor Watling noted that seats on committees had always been rotated over time and that FGP papers were presented at full council, allowing an opportunity for councillors not on the committee to take part in discussion.
“A vote was taken and the amendment was defeated.”
The draft membership lists for the Environment Committee and Leisure and Community Committee each included five Labour members and, respectively Councillor Spruce and Councillor Wright, who represents Cuckoo Oak. These were approved.