Welwyn Hatfield Council leader defends police panel membership
PUBLISHED: 13:50 04 August 2012
THE leader of Welwyn Hatfield Council has defended a decision to sit on a new police panel – rather than select two ex-officer members.
Cllr John Dean was nominated as the authority’s representative on the newly-formed Hertfordshire Police and Crime Panel – a joint committee set up under the Government’s policing reform to scrutinise the county’s new commissioner.
Deputy leader Alan Franey will act as substitute member.
But that’s despite two current Welwyn Hatfield councillors – Carl Storer and Colin Couch – having spent years in the police force.
And at a full council meeting on Monday, Liberal Democrat leader accused Cllr Dean of being “unwilling to release his grip on the reins”.
“As we have two highly experienced councillors who served many years in the police force, why has there not been any public discussion as to whether they might be a more suitable choice to sit on the police panel than the leader and the deputy leader?,” Cllr Skottowe asked.
“Should this matter not have been put before the whole council for decision?”
Cllr Dean replied: “The skills required relate more to good general scrutiny skills than police skills.
“Having discussed these issues at length with my colleague leaders around Hertfordshire, the majority of us felt that as this was a new and strategically important role, it should in the first instance be carried out directly by the leader or at least by an executive member.”
Cllr Dean added: “I’m advised this isn’t a matter reserved for the council, it’s a matter to be dealt with by cabinet.”
Cllr Skottowe responded: “It’s interesting you said ‘majority’ – as I understand it only a few went down the leadership route.
“Is it not a fact that he’s unwilling to release his grasp on the reins?”
Cllr Skottowe’s comments drew jeers from the Conservative members, and Cllr Dean hit back by saying: “I don’t intend to respond to the last nasty little sentence.
“We do get criticised from members who have never administered a council and are unlikely to ever administer a council.
“There are three council leaders – Watford, Stevenage and myself – others have used a deputy.
“I don’t know of any councils that have backbenchers taking a role.”
There are in fact four council leaders on the panel – Cllr Morris Bright of Hertsmere Borough Council is also a member.
County Councillor Peter Ruffles is the only backbencher appointed to the panel.
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