Friendly, yes. Friends, no.
Just one of a list of Dos and Don’ts adopted by councillors in Kirklees as they adopted standards of good behaviour in the Council Chamber within Huddersfield Town Hall.
Members of the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee agreed to set aside the rough and tumble of overt politicking in order to fulfil their key role: acting as a check and balance to the work of the Cabinet.
One of the most important functions of the council, the cross-party Scrutiny committee is led by councillors who are not members of the Cabinet – the movers and shakers of the Labour group who make executive decisions.
Its role is to hold the council to account for its decisions; to monitor and occasionally challenge the council’s performance and the quality of its services; to constructively review issues, policies or services; and to contribute to the development or review of policy.
But underpinning its duties is the need to work in a non party-political way – and to ensure that the collective voice of the people of Kirklees is heard.
To that end members Liz Smaje (Conservative), Cahal Burke (Lib Dem), Rob Walker (Labour) and Julie Stewart-Turner (Green) agreed to adhere to a series of constructive behavioural traits. A fifth councillor, Gulfum Asif (Labour), was absent due to Eid celebrations.
They will be working to a list of Dos and Don’ts designed to facilitate successful debate that include preparing for meetings (“Don’t spring issues on the day and expect to get detailed answers”), being prepared to listen to other people’s views (“Don’t come with fixed views and dismiss anything that does not support your pre-determined view”) and leaving party politics at the door (“Don’t grandstand and use Scrutiny to make party political points”).
And following advice from the Local Government Association councillors are urged to avoid being unhelpful, jargonistic, arrogant, deferential, subservient, imprudent, indiscriminate, evasive and reliant.
“Do be friends. Don’t be friendly,” says the LGA on effective working towards open and transparent governance.