Harrow Council’s opposition Conservative group have criticised reshuffles of some of the authority’s key decision-making committees.

They suggested decisions taken by council leader Cllr Graham Henson (Lab, Roxbourne) had left certain panels lacking “experience”.

Cllr Paul Osborn, leader of Harrow Conservatives, explained nobody questioned the ability of the newly chosen councillors but he felt there were some instances where the changes were not a good fit.

He particularly took issue with the decision to appoint Cllr Pamela Fitzpatrick (Lab, Headstone South) as chairman of the planning committee.

“I’d like to emphasise we’re not doing this because of the person involved but, while Cllr Fitzpatrick is an experienced and able councillor, she has not sat on the planning committee at all and has only attended one meeting in the last seven years,” he told a full council meeting yesterday (Wednesday, May 5).

“Whilst on some committees that might not be an impediment, I do worry given the very technical nature of this committee and given the decisions it makes are so permanent and affect the borough in such a significant way, having some who has not had that experience is not the best person for the borough.”

Cllr Osborn proposed Cllr Marilyn Ashton (Con, Stanmore Park), who currently serves as the group’s spokesman on planning matters, for chairman of the committee.

However, she was outvoted following a roll call vote – councillors voted on party lines and given Labour’s majority, Cllr Fitzpatrick was selected.

Cllr Henson said it was “outrageous” to question the initial selections and he had full confidence in those taking on new roles.

As well as the changes to the planning committee, Cllr Adam Swersky (Lab, West Harrow) stepped down from the council’s cabinet while Cllr Keith Ferry (Lab, Greenhill) is taking on reduced responsibilities.

Cllr Natasha Proctor (Lab, Wealdstone) will assume responsibility for finance and is the council’s new deputy leader.

Cllr Krishna Suresh (Lab, Rayners Lane) will now manage public health and equalities, with Cllr Peymana Assad (Lab, Roxeth) taking on his previous post of crime and community cohesion.

Former deputy leader Cllr Ferry will continue to oversee business, property and leisure at the council, while Cllr Varsha Parmar (Lab, Marlborough) will add a specific brief of climate change to her environment duties.

Cllr Henson said the new make-up will allow people to take on appropriate workloads as the council prepares to embark on the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

He added there is a good “balance” across all committees, including among genders and ages in senior groups.