Labour behind closed doors

21st April 2000 at 01:00
YOUR lead story, on the "problem" created by the legislative requirement for religious and teacher representation ("No way, say churches", TESS, March 14) illustrates well the ridiculous mess Edinburgh's Labour administration has got into in its unseemly haste to introduce cabinet-style government to the city.

It also serves to highlight three of the reasons for the consistent opposition of the council's Liberal Democrat group to the imposition of centralist rule by an inner circle of Labour councillors:

The lack of forethought and preparation for proposals which Labour anticipate will be rubber-stamped at a special council meeting on May 18; the lack of early and meaningful consultation with the public, council employees, opposition councillors and other interested parties; and the lack of democracy inherent in a system based on removal of decision-

making powers from opposition councillors, who received almost seven out of every 10 votes cast in the local elections last May.

The three options presented are all totally unacceptable. To have three church representatives, but no opposition councillors, on the one-party executive when education is discussed is blatantly undemocratic. To retain the resent education committee makes a mockery of the supposed need for "modernising" and would be difficult to scrutinise under the proposed new arrangements. To form a widened executive for education purposes, with a built-in two-thirds Labour majority, is just the sort of unfair solution we have come to expect from a very arrogant administration that cares little for accountability or proportionality. To learn from the press about these options is galling.

Unlike the Conservatives and sole SNP councillor, who have embraced Labour's half-baked ideas with enthusiasm, the Liberal Democrat group will continue to oppose this ill-thought out and anti-democratic scheme.

I suspect that few, if any, of those citizens of Edinburgh who voted Labour, and that was fewer than a third of those who voted, knew that they were voting for increased powers to a clique which will make decisions behind closed doors before appearing in public as an "open" cabinet.

By exposing the frailties of the system, the church representatives may have done electors a favour in showing up the intrinsic exclusiveness of cabinet decision-making.

Jenny Dawe

Leader, Liberal Democrat group,

City of Edinburgh Council

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