Labour county councillors have formally challenged Tory-controlled West Sussex County Council over proposals which would prevent elected councillors being able to challenge future decisions to allocate funding to businesses and social enterprises.
The proposals would be in place for the next six years, despite a significant proportion of the Council voting in February to say that funding private enterprises is not sustainable in the longer term in the face of crushing budget pressures decimating services available to residents.
The Cabinet Member for Finance, Michael Brown (Con, Fernhurst) recently published a decision to merge funding valued at £850k to support businesses and social enterprises. The proposals to allocate the funding recommend a departure from the current decision-making processes which administer the fund, with all the major discussions and recommendations instead being made behind closed doors by unelected council officers. The Labour Group view this proposed change as undemocratic, and that decision has therefore been challenged (or ‘called-in’) by all six members of the West Sussex County Council Labour Group.
Members of the Environment and Community Services Select Committee at the county council, who scrutinise and challenge the decisions of the Cabinet Member, have agreed to examine the proposals at a special meeting to be held on Thursday 23rd July.
Labour County Councillor Michael Jones (Southgate and Crawley Central), who will lead the call-in of the decision at the forthcoming Select Committee, said: “I am concerned that elected councillors will be denied the chance to challenge future funding allocations we disagree with, particularly at a time when we have serious misgivings about the amount of taxpayers money being handed over to private enterprise with little monitoring.
“Back in February a significant section of the council expressed the view that in the longer term funding private enterprises was not justifiable or sustainable, especially in the face of crushing budget pressures which are decimating services for residents; yet the Cabinet Member for Finance suddenly wants these arrangements to be in place for the next six years
“This move is completely undemocratic and no way to run a council. It is a sign of the deeper malaise that is gripping this local authority.”