Row breaks out over audit convenership

Clare Adamson MSP believes North Lanarkshire Council should adhere to an Accounts Commission recommendation.
Clare Adamson MSP believes North Lanarkshire Council should adhere to an Accounts Commission recommendation.

Clare Adamson MSP has challenged North Lanarkshire Council leader Jim McCabe to appoint an SNP councillor to a crucial position.

The Central Scotland list MSP believes Councillor McCabe should adhere to the recommendations of the Accounts Commission, and open up scrutiny of council decision making by appointing a convener to the audit committee who is not part of the Labour administration.

The call comes after the controversy created by the renegotiation of the Mears Scotland housing repairs and maintenance contract, that saw millions of pounds of efficiency savings waived aside when the firm could not fulfil the terms of its contract.

Ms Adamson has previously written to the Accounts Commission regarding the negative publicity surrounding this issue and in their response the Accounts Commission emphasised their view that the conveners of council panels with responsibility for scrutinising and auditing the council should not come from the ruling administration group.

Ms Adamson wrote to Councillor McCabe challenging him on his party’s failure to replace Tommy Morgan, who was ousted over the matter, with a non-Labour Party convener as Motherwell South East and Ravenscraig councillor Gary O’Rorke was given the job.

In her letter Ms Adamson highlighted rule changes brought in by the Labour group such as cutting the amount of time councillors are allowed to speak in the council chamber and the advance notice required to submit a motion, which means that questions cannot be raised at short notice.

Ms Adamson said: “Given the controversy and the national press coverage of the Mears Scotland contract, it is astonishing that North Lanarkshire Council have not used the opportunity to improve the transparency and scrutiny of its decision making procedures.

“They have instead made it more difficult to hold them to account by restricting the methods by which opposition councillors can ask questions and have completely ignored the recommendation of the Accounts Commission to appoint conveners that are not part of the ruling group.

“I would urge Cllr McCabe to look again at the processes of democratic accountability within the council and ask him to improve the current mechanisms so that full scrutiny of all aspects of the councils work can be carried out without restriction.”

In response Councillor McCabe has told Ms Adamson, who was once a North Lanarkshire councillor herself, to mind her own business and have a look at her own party.

He said: “Rather than telling the Labour Group how to run a council, Ms Adamson should look to her own party’s broken promises.

“Whatever happened to the SNP pledge to introduce a Local Income Tax of 3p?

“Or means-tested student grants and student loans wiped out?

“Did any first-time home buyers get a £2,000 grant to help with outlays?

“Of course not.”

“The only thing the SNP seems capable of delivering is broken promises.

“North Lanarkshire Council is fully accountable and open to scrutiny.

“Accounts Commission reports have been consistently favourable about the way council business is conducted.”