Labour and LibDems Let Conservatives Continue Running Cambridgeshire County Council

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013. 6:03pm

Cambridgeshire County Council’s full council on the 21st of May 2013 elected Conservative Cllr Martin Curtis as the new leader of the council. Cllr Curtis then appointed a cabinet comprised solely of Conservative councillors.

There were two rounds of voting for the leadership. In the first round st Cllr John Hipkin gained 16 votes from his fellow independents and UKIP; Cllr Martin Curtis obtained 32 votes from his Conservative party colleagues; and Liberal Democrat Maurice Leeke was supported by 13 of the Liberal Democrats with one abstaining on the grounds it was not a secret ballot. Labour’s councillors abstained (a total of 8 abstentions).

UKIP leader Peter Reeve was denied the opportunity to explain why his party did not put up their own candidate for leader.

In the second round there were still 32 votes for Cllr Curtis and 16 Cllr Hipkin, however the Liberal Democrats and Labour Councillors, 21 of them, abstained, deciding not to use the opportunity they had to prevent the Conservatives continuing to run the council.

I have made Cllr Curtis’ speech on being elected leader available via the above video.

  • Cllr Curtis expressed a wish to continue to work closely with group leaders.
  • Cllr Curtis said he would run the council in an inclusive manner and recognise the fact he is leading a minority administration.
  • Cllr Curtis said there is a need to keep up the momentum put in place by Cllr Nick Clarke (the previous leader).
  • Cllr Curtis said the smoother goods, information and people can get around the county the better for the county’s economy, and therefore the council.
  • Four policy advisory groups were announced on: 1. The Economy; 2. Health; 3. Vulnerable Children and 4. Vulnerable Adults. Cllr Curtis said notes of the meetings would be made public, though otherwise they would operate like policy development groups, suggesting they will be held in private. It has been noted that he is unlikely to get full council’s approval for secret meetings now UKIP and the LibDems are promoting open and transparent democracy.
  • Cllr Curtis finished by saying he would focus on what matters – the residents and the county – and urged others to follow this example and said “now is the time to give up the power struggles and start to serve”.

Liberal Democrat proposals to move away from the “strong leader” and cabinet model to a committee system were approved; with the Conservatives losing votes when UKIP and the Independents supported the Liberal Democrats.

Transport Area Joint Committees were also re-instated by the full council, despite Conservative opposition. Conservatives argued ward councillors could lobby cabinet members directly; Liberal Democrats noted this would not occur in public.

Another disagreement was over the cap on written questions councillors can ask at full council. Here Labour sided with the Conservatives, saying formal written questions were not important. UKIP and the LibDems argued they were, as they resulted in an answer being formally put on the record in public. Cllr Curtis stated that in the modern world opposition councillors could ask cabinet members questions in public via social media (perhaps he will be insisting his cabinet sign up to at least one social media service?).

One comment/update on “Labour and LibDems Let Conservatives Continue Running Cambridgeshire County Council

  1. Keith Edkins

    It would be interesting to know under what power the so-called “policy advisory groups” are set up. The Local Government Act 1972 says this:
    101 Arrangements for discharge of functions by local authorities.
    (1) Subject to any express provision contained in this Act or any Act passed after this Act, a local authority may arrange for the discharge of any of their functions—
    (a) by a committee, a sub-committee or an officer of the authority; or
    (b) by any other local authority.
    - and committee & sub-committee meetings are open to the public unless excluded for cause stated. I assume this power is wielded by the Leader in a Leader & Cabinet authority. There is not apparently any power to set up a body other than a committee or a sub-committee to “discharge any of their functions”, which would seem to cover much of what these groups might do – commissioning & receiving reports, for instance.

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