‘It’s like News International running the Leveson inquiry’ - Lib Dem attacks coalition’s choice for scrutiny panel

OPPOSITION leaders have accused the new city administration of mounting a power grab after it handed control of the independent finance scrutiny committee to a member of its own coalition.

Labour has broken from convention in nominating one of its own councillors, Maureen Child, as chair of the audit committee – and with a large majority can ensure she wins the position.

Until now, a member of the opposition had chaired the investigative body to demonstrate independence in its actions.

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New Liberal Democrat leader Paul Edie likened the move to “allowing News International to run the Leveson inquiry”.

In response, new city council leader Andrew Burns insisted it was a temporary measure.

Opposition parties have not yet decided whether to nominate their own candidate for the post and are likely to be outvoted by the Labour-SNP administration should they do so.

If there are no other nominees, Councillor Child will be formally approved next week.

Long-standing Conservative member Allan Jackson had held the post for nearly a decade despite not being in the administration.

Opposition politicians have voiced concerns that a ruling administration with such a large majority – 38 of 58 councillors – would be more difficult to hold to account. The 2007-12 council was tied 29-29 and at times relied on the casting vote of the Lord Provost.

Councillor Edie said the move had taken elected members by surprise. He said: “I think this is completely unacceptable. They already have a large majority and now they’re chairing their own investigative committee. It’s like News International running the Leveson inquiry.”

He added: “We’ve had all this touchy-feely stuff from Andrew about consensus politics but now we’re seeing this. To close down the opposition is not good for policy-making.”

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Conservative leader Jeremy Balfour said the move was a stark contrast to Labour pledges on consensus politics.

He said: “Andrew [Burns] talked about opening up the decision- making process but the first decision his administration has made is to give this key role to a member of the coalition.

“For the past nine years a non-administration councillor has been convenor and last year Audit Scotland suggested that it should be led by a member of the opposition to guarantee independent scrutiny.”

Cllr Burns said: “It’s a temporary measure because we have a coalition agreement to review the committee structure.

“The positions appointed next week will only remain for a few months until after recess and there will be a motion calling for a review.”

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