A row has broken out after backbench politicians in Wrexham chose not to allow council tenants onto a committee which scrutinises housing issues.
It comes after some claimed it would weaken an existing residents’ body established to air any problems faced by people living under the local authority’s roof.
Members of Wrexham Council’s homes and environment scrutiny committee met last week to discuss whether to invite non-councillors onto the panel.
If approved it would have seen tenants allowed to take part in debates but without voting rights in what one council officer said would be a first in North Wales.
However, the committee concluded it could harm Wrexham’s Tenant Member Partnership, despite the original suggestion coming from within the group.
The decision not to allow residents on board was criticised by some councillors, including one who said it could lead to them showing ‘two fingers’ to the authority.
Labour councillor Graham Rogers said: “I’m really baffled to be honest by what people are saying as far as the fear to have tenants involved in this scrutiny committee goes.
“We have to ask the question, if we deny these people the opportunity of coming to participate in a sensible debate, there might come a time where we might not have the opportunity to fetch people on board.
“People who sit on that board might give us the two fingers, so that’s the fear I’ve got.
“The reality is we are here discussing it today because tenants made the request that they can participate in debates on the homes and environment scrutiny committee.”
Conservative councillor Mike Morris said he didn’t feel co-opting council tenants would be a good idea because they only represent 11,000 of around 50,000 households across the county borough.
He added the committee might also need to invite other parties, such as house builders and landlords if the move went ahead.
He said: “I’ve got no problem with anybody attending scrutiny, as is their right, and I’m sure members of the public are given the opportunity to speak on any relevant matter.
“I still think that’s the best way forward because when you look at this committee it’s not just about council housing, it’s much wider.
“I don’t really think it’s that appropriate as such and I would maintain that we advise the tenant member partnership of their right to attend scrutiny.”
Plaid Cymru’s Marc Jones said there was also a danger of undermining the partnership, which he described as ‘a powerful platform’ for residents to have their say.
At the end of the meeting, most councillors voted in favour of not allowing tenants to join but to remind them of their right to attend debates.
Their recommendation will be considered by a full council meeting at a later date.
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).
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