Scarborough Council leader survives vote of no confidence

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Scarborough Council’s leader has survived a vote of no confidence and promised to “get on with the job” he has started.

Labour’s Coun Steve Siddons faced the vote after representatives of two independent groups and the Conservatives submitted the no-confidence motion, saying he had failed to follow through on the promises he made when he was elected in May.

The heated debate took place at Scarborough Town Hall.

The heated debate took place at Scarborough Town Hall.

Following more than an hour of heated debate at Scarborough Town Hall on January 3, the motion was defeated by 26 votes to 16. Had he lost, Coun Siddons would have immediately been removed from office and a new leader elected.

Following the meeting, Coun Siddons made a brief statement.

He said: “I want to thank the most sensible members of council who saw no sense in disrupting the progress we’ve made. I’ll just be getting on with the job we have started.

“There is a full council meeting on Monday when reports will be presented about real issues and real opportunities for this borough.”

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Since the local elections seven months ago the 13-strong Labour Group has been running the 46-member council with the support of the 10 Independent Group councillors and two Green Party councillors.

The no-confidence motion was proposed by Coun Bill Chatt, a cabinet member under the previous Conservative regime and now the leader of the three-strong Cluster of Independent Members (CIM) group.

The motion was also signed by two Conservative councillors and Independent Group leader Coun Sam Cross. Independent Coun John Casey was the final signatory.

Coun Chatt told the meeting that Coun Siddons had been running the council “like a dictatorship” and said he had only read about decisions taken by the leader in the press and said there had been no discussions with members on issues such as not bidding for this year’s Tour de Yorkshire.

He added: “Everything he is doing is based upon him and his three [cabinet members]. It is not based upon the rest of us. We just sit here waiting for the next crumb to fall from his table. He would not have stood for it but he expects all of us to stand for it.”

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Coun Heather Phillips (Con), who seconded the motion, said the leader had had “considerable time” to make the best use of all the councillors’ talents, as he promised when he took office.

She added: “Can I also just draw your attention to a very large opinion poll which took place on December 12 when 55 per cent of those who voted in the borough of Scarborough voted Conservative.”

During the debate, Coun Siddons spoke of “dark forces” operating behind the scenes and an unelected person being the driver of the “manipulative” no-confidence motion.

He added that Coun Cross had supported the motion after he was denied the role of deputy leader on the authority.

Independent group councillors Andrew Backhouse and Phil Kershaw both spoke in the meeting of the need for better communication from the Labour leadership, but both cautioned against changing leaders.

Coun Backhouse said it was only seven months since the leader was elected and there had been months without a chief executive and then purdah around the general election.

He added: “The reality and the real term of working weeks you’ve had is limited. You now are sharing your vision, some may say, too little too late, that is some may say that. But I think you need to be very careful where we go here, listen to the messages.

"We are in thirds, opposition is healthy. The key to strong leadership is compromise. Compromise and deliver and explain that compromise.”

Coun Siddons said he had listened to members’ concerns.

He said: “I have spoken to members from all sides over the Christmas break and it is clear that communication from across the council should be better and I recognise that.”

The motion was defeated by 16 votes to 26, with four members absent.

Conservative Coun Hazel Lynskey, the borough’s Mayor, voted against the motion. Three Independent Group members, Coun Cross, Coun Casey and Coun Eileen Murphy, all voted in favour of removing Coun Siddons.