At the full council meeting in November, we were asked to agree the political balance of the committees. Within Teignbridge we have councillors arranged in political groupings, and there are smaller committees for example to decide planning applications, to decide on licensing and regulatory issues, and scrutiny committees to check up on the work of other parts of the council.
There have recently been changes in the political groupings for example I understand Councillor Patch has left the independent group and now works alone. Having an independent group sounds like a contradiction, but it makes sense. Independent councillors can work together as a group for the purposes of being allocated seats on committees. If there are enough people in the group they will be allocated places on the committees which they share out.
The proposed political balance has been calculated by the council officers using the formula set down in law. An amendment was proposed to give councillor patch a place on the planning committee since he didn’t have any committee places. This is very sporting but the amendment did not state where the additional place was to come from. Cllr Eden offered her place on planning, but it became clear she didn’t have a place to give up.
I think it highly likely that voting to give a place to one particular councillor would have been illegal (if the balanace is handed down in law from central government) or at least unconstitutional (since the political balance rules are stated in the TDC constitution). The amendment seemed unworkable. I voted against the amendment, and for the politically balanced numbers calculated by the officers.
I do think it is important to scrutinise the democratic processes, I am a dedicated supporter of preference voting because first past the post is a totally inadequate system of democracy as soon as there are more than two candidates. I campaign for change on the issue of preference voting. Distribution of committee places proportional to elected councillors is not a part of the system that I think is broken.