Labour councillors will dominate the committees that make many of the key decisions on behalf of Brighton and Hove City Council after the party’s landslide local election victory.
A report to the “annual council” meeting today (Thursday 25 May) said that Labour would have 85 out of 116 seats on a dozen committees.
This reflected the 38 council seats out of 54 which were won by the party earlier this month.
The opposition Greens would have 16 seats on committees while 14 would be filled by Conservatives, one by a Brighton and Hove Independent councillor and one by Independent councillor Peter Atkinson.
The committees have been reorganised to try to make meetings more manageable. These changes – and the membership of all the committees – were approved unanimously at the annual council meeting at Brighton Town Hall.
The Brighton and Hove Independents were offered four seats on committee but chose to take up a place on the Planning Committee only.
But the group, registered as a party with the Electoral Commission, was not offered a seat on any of the council’s policy-making committees.
The group’s founder, Councillor Bridget Fishleigh, wanted her colleague Mark Earthey to be allocated a seat on one of two new committees – the City Environment, South Downs and the Sea Committee or Transport and Sustainability Committee.
Councillor Fishleigh is now in her second term as a member of the council and she and Councillor Earthey represent the new Rottingdean and West Saltdean ward.
Councillor Earthey is a consultant in the energy industry – and Councillor Fishleigh had hoped that his talents would be recognised with a place at the table.
She said: “Labour is in charge and we think it’s good that there will be no more opportunities for finger-pointing when things go wrong.
“But it’s a shame that Labour hasn’t embraced talent and experience in other groups – such as (Conservative councillor) Samer Bagaeen, a professor in planning.”
The Brighton and Hove Independent councillors declined two places – one on the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee and the other on the Licensing Committee.
Councillor Fishleigh said that the Licensing Committee would mean “rubber stamping of officers’ decisions”.
She added: “I’m going to be busy working on the West Saltdean and Ovingdean neighbourhood plans.
“Mark is going to be busy examining the carbon-neutral programme, environment plans and sustainability plans put forward by the council.”
Councillor Atkinson, who held his North Portslade seat, will continue to sit on the Audit and Standards Committee.
The former Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee has had its responsibilities split between two new committees – the City Environment, South Downs and the Sea Committee and Transport and Sustainability Committee.
The former Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee has also had its responsibilities split between two new committees – the Culture, Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Economic Development Committee and the Equalities, Community Safety and Human Rights Committee.
What was the Policy and Resources Committee has been renamed the Strategy, Finance and City Regeneration Committee.
The report to the annual council meeting said that the changes would be “cost neutral” in part because 21 “member working groups” would be disbanded and the practice of private “pre-meetings” would be ended.
The frequency of meetings would be reviewed along with the volume of work to ensure that, as far as possible, it could be managed within office hours.
All those Labour councillors chairing a committee – and their deputies – have agreed to reduce their special responsibility allowances so that the relevant budget does not need to rise overall.