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

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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.

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.”

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.”