Greens win battle for scrutiny role

Newham Council has agreed to implement a report that will appoint Green Party councillors to every committee on the Council.

By Noah Enahoro

Councillor Nate Higgins.
Councillor Nate Higgins. Photo: Gary Pendlebury, Newham Green Party

After a 17-month-long campaign, Newham Council has agreed to implement a report that will appoint Green Party councillors to every committee on the Council, including vital Audit and Chief Officer Appointment committees.

The Council was forced to appoint Greens to committees after legal advice confirmed their claims that the Council was not acting in line with legal obligations. The Local Government and Housing Act 1989 s.15(5)(a) requires that ‘no party can be given all the seats on any Council committee’. Despite the 2022 election of two opposition Green councillors, the majority of committee members remained Labour.

Green Councillor Nate Higgins (Stratford Olympic Park), who led the campaign, said: “This report confirmed that the Council was not acting in line with its legal obligations in shutting Green councillors off of vital committees like Audit and Chief Officer Appointments Committee as they have for the last seventeen months.”

“We should have and we could have reached this point much sooner. When we were first elected, we made the case that opposition must be represented on our committees. We were told we were wrong. Today’s report confirms they should have listened to us then.”

The 2022 election of two Green councillors in Newham, Higgins and Danny Keeling both representing the Stratford Olympic Park ward, made history. It marked the first time in 16 years that non-Labour councillors had won seats during a local election and became the first Green councillors to join Newham Council. Danny Keeling also became the first non-binary councillor elected to Newham Council.

Keeling, who leads the opposition, said: “Since our election, Greens have been working hard to scrutinise the Council across the few committees Labour have allowed us to sit on. Now that legal advice has forced them to accept scrutiny, Greens will work that much harder to hold this administration to account including constitutional changes.”

Councillor Anam Islam, Chief Whip of the Labour Group said: “At October’s full Council meeting, a report was presented by the Council’s Monitoring Officer on new proposals for the allocation of committee seats, acknowledging that these are different from previous recommendations presented and approved by all members, including the minority Green Group in May 2022.

“It is normal, reasonable and in line with good governance to follow the advice of officers, with the appropriate challenge and scrutiny. That is why Mayor Fiaz asked the Monitoring Officer to seek legal advice as part of the Constitutional Review she announced last year and following the by-elections in July 2023. As stated by the Council’s monitoring officer at the meeting of Full Council in October, the new committee allocation proposals as agreed by the Majority Group of Labour Councillors and Green members does not render the previous allocations or any decisions of the bodies to which they applied unlawful or open to challenge.”