I have written previously about the expensive farce that constitutes the “scrutiny” process on Hammersmith and Fulham Council. The “Governance and Scrutiny” department costs the Council nearly half a million pounds.
Five Labour councillors are each paid to chair a committee. Each committee meets half a dozen times a year for an hour or two. For agreeing to chair these meetings each of the councillors gets an extra £5,000 a year. So £833.33p a meeting. A staggeringly large sum for so little work.
Those “special responsibility” allowances are handed out by the council leader. So it is a system of patronage. Any real scrutiny from any of those councillors would put them at risk of losing their £5,000 a year. So it is not merely money that is wasted. It is spending which diminishes the amount of scrutiny that would otherwise occur. It is counter scrutiny spending. Hush money. It is spending to silence criticism.
The Community Safety, Environment and Residents Services Policy and Accountability Committee is chaired by Cllr Larry Culhane. Towards the end of last week’s Council meeting he said:
“As chair of the PAC committee that I chair – I won’t say the name because I always struggle to remember it off by heart. Too many words in it, too many words in it.”
Shameless. But I’m afraid it was illustrative of the fundamental problem not just temporary absent mindedness. When I was on his Committee he failed to provide any effective scrutiny himself – and attempted to prevent me from doing so.