AN ON-GOING argument over the death of democracy in Hillingdon has claimed another two high profile scalps as two senior politicians have quit committee roles.
The Leader of the Labour group Councillor Anthony Way and his deputy Councillor Mo Khursheed have both resigned from Hillingdon Council's Executive Scrutiny Committee.
The group was set up in 2006 and the Conservatives chose to appoint Mr Way as chairman and Mr Khursheed as deputy to ensure the opposition parties got a say in how they run the borough.
However, at a cabinet meeting on January 22 councillors were asked to approve a report recommending the merger of two offices which would lead to a saving of £1.6 million - £70,000 of which would come from reordering democratic services which advises councillors on how to do their jobs.
Councillors from both the Labour and Conservative groups had apparently expressed concern the merger may affect the ability to scrutinise decisions.
The Leader of the Council Councillor Ray Puddifoot told Mr Way not to bother examining the decision as it was going to go-ahead regardless, which led to the resignations.
Mr Way said: "(This) not only shows complete and utter contempt for the Executive Scrutiny Committee but it also shows an arrogance and contempt for the views of his own back bench councillors and more importantly the electorate.
"For some time now we have thought that the way Scrutiny is treated in Hillingdon is questionable, and now it has disintegrated further."
The row follows several in recent months including Councillor Anita MacDonald resigning from the North Planning Committee after Conservative councillors overturned permission for a new nursery in Ickenham. She has since announced she is to return.
Liberal Democrat leader Mike Cox has come out in support of the Labour members and said: "For the Leader of the Council to treat senior members of the opposition and his own backbenchers with such contempt is beyond reasoning.
"Councillor Puddifoots cavalier and contemptuous remark clearly demonstrates that democracy in Hillingdon died in 2006.
"There is only one opinion that counts and that is Councillor Puddifoot's.I applauded the actions of Cllrs Way and Khursheed. Hopefully something good will come of it."
Councillor Paul Buttivant (Con), who represents the Heathrow Villages, has also waded into the debate on democracy.
He said: "These moves by the Labour and Liberal Democrat groups are purely about electioneering.
"The Labour members are just searching for a natural home in the borough. Their problem is they don't understand democracy themselves - they don't even know if they are 'old' Labour or 'new'.
"They claim they want to fight on behalf of local people on issues like the third runway, but if they really wanted to protect the villages from their undemocractic Government the thing to do is resign and stand as independents at the next election."
Mr Way has sent a letter of resignation, outlining his Committee's concerns to Mr Puddifoot, which he has also sent to the Chairman of the Standards Committee, The Centre for Public Scrutiny and The Audit Commission.
Mr Puddifoot said the merger was a matter of policy and responded by calling the resignations 'political mischief.'
He added: "Democracy belongs to the people. The Labour group has had little or no part in running this council and if they wish to be even less involved that is their choice.
"We acknowledge the concerns of the committee and already intend to review the merger to ensure the level of service is not affected.
"The system will continue as normal with us doing the job the residents selected us to do."
The Labour group is entitled to nominate two replacements on the committee, but if it chooses not to it will continue with the four Conservative representatives