Scrutiny panel: ‘Checks and balances are important’

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ONE of the benefits that the new Labour-SNP coalition promises to bring to the Capital is that it should be a strong ruling administration.

With such a clear majority at the City Chambers, it will be in a position to push through radical ideas – ones that could change the city for the better.

That strong leadership is particularly important as we face up to the tough choices that public spending cuts will inevitably bring.

In such times, we don’t want every policy watered down by the compromises that come with multi-party coalition.

But that is not to say that the actions of the ruling partners do not need to be scrutinised.

In fact, when the ruling coalition holds 38 of the 58 seats on the council, strong checks and balances are more important than ever.

That is why it is disappointing to see the administration take control of the finance scrutiny panel, whose job is to question and challenge its actions, by appointing one of its own members as chairman.

City leaders intend to revisit the appointment, along with those of other committee chairmen, after a review of the council’s entire committee structure is carried out later this year.

It is to be hoped that the convention of handing this crucial post to a respected opposition councillor is restored then.

Anything else would smack of insecurity and would raise the question, what are our council leaders trying to hide?

Waiting list crisis

The new waiting time figures from NHS Lothian show the scale of the problem the health board now has to tackle following the departure of chief executive James Barbour. The manipulation of waiting time figures and pressure on staff led to the crisis.

Despite £5 million of emergency measures the backlog of patients has continued to rise. There are now almost 7000 patients waiting longer that the 18-week guarantee for treatment.

It is now accepted that the problem will not be under control by June, the original target date.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has made all the right noises about tackling the problem. But questions must be asked about whether enough money has been allocated to deal with a scandal that is more intractable that first realised.