LABOUR rebels who came close to ousting their colleague Ann Lucas as Coventry City Council leader on Friday secured key positions on scrutiny committees last night.
In a clear gesture of defiance and division, the Labour group’s councillors voted her challengers in as chairs of scrunity committees.
As one source put it: “They could make life very uncomfortable for Ann.”
Many at the Council House predict Coun Lucas will face another leadership challenge next year, and she herself described Friday’s close vote as a “points victory rather than a knock-out.”
The scrutiny committees have the power to halt policies approved by the leader, her cabinet members and council – and “call in” decisions for more consideration.
Councillor George Duggins, who on Friday narrowly failed to replace Coun Lucas as council leader in a secret ballot of Labour’s 41 councillors – with 17 votes compared with her 23 (one spoiled ballot paper) – becomes chairman of the scrutiny co-ordination committee.
Coun John Mutton, who was ousted as leader by Coun Lucas two years ago, has secured a position as chair of the scrutiny board for finance.
His wife Mal Mutton becomes chair of scrutiny board for children’s services.
The scrutiny committee chairmanships went to rebel councillors rather than Lucas loyalists as the recently changed rules dictate that her cabinet members are not allowed to vote for who takes the scrutiny positions.
Cabinet members, who receive additional remuneration above the £14,000 basic councillor allowance, are appointed by the leader. Those positions remain unchanged.
Other scrutiny committee chairmanships were secured by councillors Ram Lakha, Tariq Khan and David Welsh.
It is understood Coun Lucas at Friday’s meeting of the Labour group called for unity, and issued warnings regarding any councillor leaking information to the Press.
The job of the scrutiny arm of the council is to hold the council and cabinet as executive to account.
Scrutiny’s role is billed as ensuring “the council is acting efficiently and effectively”, reviewing and developing council policy, and ensuring the “council is acting properly”.