A ruling Lib Dem councillor has cancelled her attendance at a scrutiny committee for the third time in a row, in what Labour says is an attempt to avoid accountability for misleading public comments.
Lib Dem councillor Paula Widdowson has been scheduled several times to attend the council’s Economy scrutiny committee, to explain to a cross-party committee how York Central would be a zero carbon development, after making the public claim last year.
But time and again the councillor has sought to avoid being quizzed in public on the claim.
Labour’s Deputy Group Leader and member of the economy scrutiny committee, Cllr Claire Douglas said:
“We’ve known for years that when in power the Liberal Democrats go to great lengths to avoid scrutiny of their decisions and their pledges. Cllr Widdowson has settled in well to the Lib Dem Executive in this respect, but has even exceeded her more experienced colleagues in failing to show up three times running to explain her ‘carbon zero York Central’ claim.
“The explanation for these repeated no-shows is because she can’t explain it. Latest plans for York Central even include a main arterial road running through the development that will ensure it is clogged with traffic, forgoing the opportunity to make it a truly low carbon, clean and green development. That the Liberal Democrat-Green Coalition running the council is resorting to making up pledges which they can’t back up with any evidence is a sign of how desperate it has become”.
Cllr Widdowson’s avoidance of scrutiny at this week’s committee follows excuses provided not to attend in February and March. The model of governance in York is such that scrutiny is the main way for councillors not on the ruling Executive to work to improve policy making and to hold the Executive to account.
Cllr Pete Kilbane, Labour Group Leader said this is made almost impossible where ruling councillors go into hiding. He comments:
“Residents may well remember that the Lib Dems have previous on claims that are at odds with fact. Their claims on York being carbon zero by 2030 disregard around 75% of all the city’s carbon emissions, demonstrating that they are more focussed on misleading the residents of York than on being honest about the challenges we face and about what the council alongside its partners can achieve.
“It’s little wonder the public are increasingly struggling to believe a word they say”.
Cllr Widdowson issued a letter (below) to the Chair of the Economy and Place Scrutiny Committee in place of her attendance, stating that she had opted to attend a conference in London on ‘sustainable investment’ instead.