Council committee accused of 'dereliction of duty'

PUBLISHED: 12:00 14 August 2018

Congresbury Residents' Action Group (CRAG).

Congresbury Residents' Action Group (CRAG).

Archant

A councillor has hit back at claims of 'dereliction of duty' by a committee responsible for scrutinising major housing plans.

Charles Cave, chairman of North Somerset Council’s strategic planning and economic development policy and scrutiny panel (SPED), has rebutted criticism from the North Somerset Village’s Alliance (NSVA) – which claimed the committee ‘does not know what it is doing’.

The NSVA – an action group bidding to prevent large housing development in North Somerset’s countryside – believes SPED is falling short of its requirements.

The criticism centres on proposals to build tens of thousands of homes across North Somerset in the next two decades, known as the Joint Spatial Plan (JSP), and NSVA secretary Viv Tomkinson has accused SPED of applying ‘no scrutiny’ to decisions.

A spokesman said: “NSVA delegates were amazed members of the SPED did not appear to know what they were doing.

“The criticism follows a recent meeting of SPED at which members did not seem to realise their function was to hold the executive to account.”

NSVA co-chairman Mary Short, who is also chairman of Congresbury Residents’ Action Group, added: “We have looked at the council’s constitution and that is precisely their job.

“The clue is in the committee’s title – scrutiny – I don’t know what else they think is their reason for existence if not to scrutinise the executive.”

But Cllr Cave refuted the claims of the action group.

He told the Times: “All members of the panel are certainly aware of their responsibilities.

“The panel’s February meeting made a robust public statement to the executive expressing serious concerns regarding the JSP.

“Now the JSP has been submitted, the panel is focusing on the local plan. Within this process the panel is both critical of, and seeks to constructively influence and shape, the plan’s outcome. Best results are not always achieved by just confrontation.

“Members held officers to account regarding the lack of delivery of the MetroWest transport scheme. The apparent lack of Government support through funding regarding the Portishead railway connection, is particularly relevant.

“Our message to Government is can we be confident of the necessary funding for the houses imposed on North Somerset?”

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