CONSERVATIVE MP Sir Christopher Chope has suggested putting opposition councillors at the helm of scrutiny committees on the Tory-run BCP Council could help alleviate concerns about “accountability and transparency”.

Since a controversial restructure of the council’s scrutiny set up last month, two of the new committees are chaired by Conservative councillors.

While these members are not part of the Conservative cabinet executive, which would be a breach of government guidance, concerns have been raised about those who are heading up the meetings.

Christchurch MP Sir Christopher said the subject came to his attention after BCP Council voted to change its scrutiny arrangements at a meeting on May 10.

The veteran politician said in the House of Commons the chair of the public accounts committee was given to the opposition party so the role was seen as “independent of Government”.

“From my perspective I think it would be a good thing if BCP Council was to give the chairman of the scrutiny committees to an opposition councillor,” Sir Christopher said.

He said: “It is not for me to get involved in the running of BCP Council – I have no desire to do that.

“I see a number of my constituents are concerned about the lack of transparency in BCP Council and that is a concern for me as a Conservative.

“I think that would be a concern for people across the political spectrum.”

The backbench MP said “proper accountability and transparency” was key both at a national and local government level, with a need for a “strong” scrutiny model within the council.

“I think it would be worth exploring (having opposition councillors chairing scrutiny),” Sir Christopher said.

“I believe it would help the council ensure public confidence about how it carries out its work.”

Sir Christopher asked the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities if steps would be taken to require local authorities to have overview and scrutiny committees chaired by a councillor chosen by opposition councillors, or where there are no opposition councillors, chosen solely by backbenchers.

Junior minister Kemi Badenoch said the government guidance stated the discretion on the selection of the chair of committees was for each council to decide, however, members of the executive cannot be a member of a scrutiny committee.

“The guidance states that chairs should pay special attention to the need to guard the committee’s independence,” Ms Badenoch said. “Importantly, however, they should take care to avoid the committee being, and being viewed as, a de facto opposition to the executive.

“The guidance recognises that authorities have democratic mandates and are ultimately accountable to their electorates.”