Conduct committee criticised by councillors denied seat

Questions over whether committee should include all political groups on council, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Enfield Civic Centre
Enfield Civic Centre

An opposition group says it has “no confidence” in Enfield Council’s conduct committee – after being denied a seat at the table.

Community First, made up of seven former Labour councillors, claims it should be represented on the committee – which deals with policy, complaints against councillors and code of conduct issues – because all groups should be given representation.

Under the council’s constitution, the committee is currently made up of only two Labour and two Conservative members, preventing Community First’s councillors from taking part. The constitution also states that the members should include both party whips, when there are currently three. 

But the principle of proportionality does not apply to the committee and Community First argues the group could be allowed a seat at the table. A council spokesperson said the committee was “in line” with the constitution.

Derek Levy, Community First whip, said: “We cannot be beholden to a conduct committee that clearly excludes us from participation and recognition. You cannot on the one hand accept the principle of disapplying proportionality but on the other fail to even acknowledge, let alone accommodate, the existence of one group of elected members.

“We challenge the committee’s legitimacy, validity, and its complete lack of inclusivity, not least because this is a peer-judging-peer process. As things stand, it is a case of heads they win, and tails we lose. This being so, given that we are not represented, we cannot accept, let alone recognise, its authority.”

The code of conduct annual report was on the agenda for the full council meeting on 22nd September, but it was not discussed by councillors as the time alloted for the meeting ran out.

Cllr Levy added: “We also firmly object to a flawed constitution that doesn’t allow time for debating major reports that affect the workings of this authority, but nonetheless facilitates the debate of pointless motions which the council has next to no capacity to affect whatsoever.” 

Community First was founded in 2020 after Dinah Barry and Derek Levy quit the Enfield Labour group. Five more councillors quit Labour and joined the independent grouping during the following months. In January, the group branded scrutiny of council pay “inadequate” after being denied a seat on the staff appeals, appointment and remuneration committee.

Daniel Anderson, a former deputy leader of the council, has also previously hit out at new scrutiny arrangements introduced by the council last year.

A council spokesperson said: “The committee is set up in line with the council’s constitution.”