LABOUR councillors have raised concerns over a council’s criticised scrutiny process.

The way in which Northumberland County Council’s decisions were scrutinised by councillors came in for criticism in the Max Caller report.

Following the report’s publication in the summer of 2022, changes were brought in so that scrutiny committees looked at more relevant issues to local people.

Committees also now review decisions taken by the council’s cabinet after the event.

Previously, committees did so in the lead-up to cabinet meetings, with some scrutiny taking place the day before the executive met.

It was felt by councillors and legal officers that the new method of scrutiny would have more of an impact. However, at this week’s meeting of the Corporate Services and Economic Growth Scrutiny Committee, opposition councillors criticised the new way of working over a report set to go to cabinet later this year around housing regeneration.

Speaking at the meeting, Councillor Alex Wallace said: “The report will go to cabinet, but I’m not on the cabinet, so I don’t know what you’re talking about – I don’t know what the report is.

“I’m concerned because it is something we councillors generally feel – information is not being shared with all 67 members.”

Officers explained that the cabinet report would be available online a week before the meeting took place. Cabinet meetings are also open to the public and are streamed live via the council’s YouTube channel.

However, Cllr Lynne Grimshaw was also unhappy with the new procedures, pointing out that decisions were taken by a “one-sided cabinet”.

She said: “I get my colleague’s point, it’s not balanced. We’re getting these papers but we’re a scrutiny committee, and we should be scrutinising these matters in depth, asking any questions we might feel we need to ask prior to it going to cabinet.

“We should have that involvement. We really need to scrutinise, that is why we are here.

“There are things flying through that are decided before we even get to have a look at it. We used to look at all these things in depth and that is hugely important, those were the days we felt we have a purpose in this committee.

“We’re dealing with a lot of people we represent’s money and we need to see if they’re getting value for money.”

Conservative councillor Nick Oliver defended the administration.

He said: “This is the whole point of having the cabinet’s forward plan on the agenda. The information is all there, the idea that people aren’t sharing it is not accurate – it’s all on the website.

“I have a slightly different view. What we have moved towards is less pointless, poor scrutiny. The cabinet forward plan lets us know what is coming, if we are concerned about it then this would be the opportunity to ask for the report to come here.

“We need to be careful that we don’t just revert to pre-scrutinising everything. If we’re honest, what has been happening over the last few years has been largely pointless because I haven’t seen many cabinet decisions changed because of scrutiny.

“What we would be better off doing is focusing on how positive decisions are, or try and get ahead of the game, way ahead of the reports produced coming to cabinet so we can influence the sort of decisions cabinet are making, rather than making a few anodyne recommendations about each cabinet report the day before it hits the meeting.”