A ROW has broken out at Dudley Council after leaders were accused of hiding from scrutiny of their budget plans.

The Conservative-run authority is planning to save around £7.7m in the next financial year but chiefs are facing accusations of not allowing councillors to take a proper look at their plans.

Major council departments have committees dedicated to examining spending plans but Labour says committee members have not been given time to delve into the details.

Labour finance spokesperson, Cllr Shaukat Ali, said: “This year for some reason they have taken the decision to organise a members’ Q&A. It doesn’t make sense, they seem to be hiding away from the committees."

The authority revealed its spending plans at a cabinet meeting on January 11 and held a Q&A meeting for members on January 17.

Council leader, Cllr Patrick Harley, says revealing spending plans in the new year was appropriate because the government did not make an announcement on the size of the council’s grant until mid-December.

Cllr Ali claims select committees could have discussed the budget before Christmas based on the council’s own forecasts but Cllr Harley hit back, saying: “Two years ago we made a decision to charge for green waste using the very same idea.

“Two days before the last working day of December the government gave us an additional £2m thereby negating the need to charge. 

“To avoid the same scenario this year we waited – quite sensibly – to see what the final figure would be.”

The council budget is on the agenda for the Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on Thursday January 25 but Cllr Ali said: “Only members of the overview committee will scrutinise, there is no clarity on how other members will be involved in scrutiny.”

Cllr Harley dismissed the complaint as ‘ridiculous’ and said the Q&A meeting was a first for the council where all members had chance to question decisions.