Metro Mayor branded disgraceful for not answering questions
Councillors have blasted metro mayor Tim Bowles as “disgraceful” for failing to appear before them to answer questions about the future of the region.
The West of England Combined Authority’s overview and scrutiny committee demanded the mayor, along with the leaders of its three local authorities, be summoned to appear before them following a no-show over the last year.
The call came as members, tasked with providing oversight of Weca’s proposals, expressed anger at being asked to scrutinise a “glossy document with no details or timelines that they could scrutinise” outlining the organisation’s 2019/20 business plan.
After the meeting Mr Bowles promised to discuss the request with Bristol’s mayor and the leaders of South Gloucestershire and Bath & North East Somerset councils, which comprise the combined authority, known as WECA.
Those criticising the South Gloucestershire politician included fellow Conservative Liz Richardson.
The B&NES councillor told fellow members: “We’ve sat here for two years, we’re a scrutiny panel.
“When we have scrutiny in our local authorities, we have the executive members there to face scrutiny because that’s what scrutiny is about.
“In the House of Commons the same thing happens. The cabinet ministers are called to the scrutiny panel where they have to answer questions.
“We can already access the glossy stuff that goes out the public but we are here to scrutinise the documents that lie below it and to question the executive members that are responsible for instructing officers for bringing this together.
“We’re not here to look at the glossy stuff. We’re here to scrutinise. It’s our role.
“It’s fine to have the officers presenting the reports but we should at least once a year have the leaders and the metro mayor here.
“Until that happens, we’re not effectively scrutinising.”
Councillor Tim Ball, a Lib Dem B&NES councillor, said: “We get very frustrated at not seeing the lead executive members of Weca at all.
“The officers here unfortunately take the flack because they come before us on a regular basis.
“The metro mayor certainly hasn’t come to our meetings this year. He has only been to one meeting.
“That is disgraceful for an elected representative to not turn up at a scrutiny panel. I’ve invited him numerous times.
“He needs to come here at least once a year to lay out his programme with the other three members, then we can look at what we need to scrutinise.
“We need to question them quite clearly on how they’re going to move that programme forward.
“We’re supposed to be scrutinising.”
Afterwards, Mr Bowles said: “We all need to work together for the benefit of the region and I will discuss the opportunity for the leadership to attend scrutiny with the other leaders within the combined authority.”
By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service