THE leader of South Tyneside Council’s plan to promote democratic open government with a question-and-answer session has been labelled a “gimmick” by an opposition spokesman.
Many of Labour’s traditional political rivals are no longer represented on the borough council – including the Progressives and Liberal Democrats.
In an attempt to give the opposition an input, council leader Iain Malcolm put himself forward last year for an annual Q&E session – so other parties could put him under the spotlight.
That exercise was repeated earlier this week at a meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee at South Shields Town Hall – but no opposition members attended.
Committee member Coun George Elsom, the independent leader of the opposition on South Tyneside Council, derided the sessions.
He said: “The whole thing was just a gimmick, and not an attempt at inclusiveness at all.
“I decided that it would be absolutely pointless to attend it and give it any kind of legitimacy by doing so. I wasn’t going to play their game so that the leadership could say ‘we’re listening to you’.
“The reality is that whatever suggestions the opposition come up with would just be ignored. They will do what they want to do.”
Coun Malcolm said: “It’s a question for the opposition whether they attended or not, but it did offer an opportunity to hold us to account.”