New council – same old in-fighting

Disruption was the name of the game at the new county council’s first meeting yesterday afternoon as the Tories protested against what they saw as a move towards ‘a one-party state’.

Conservative Group leader Peter Jackson repeatedly called for amendments and named votes during the election of councillors to the various senior roles on the council.

It came after the election three weeks ago in which Labour gained more seats than any other party but not an overall majority.

Since then, Labour has agreed a deal with Independent councillors John Taylor, Anne Dale and Paul Kelly to enable it to form an administration.

Coun Jackson proposed a formal amendment on the election of the chairmen to the scrutiny committees, saying they should all come from the opposition.

Calling for the amendment, he referred to some of the Labour members’ ‘Marxist leanings’ and the road towards a ‘Stalinist doctrine’, while also making reference to ‘shady deals’ made by the Labour group and the three Independent councillors.

Coun Kelly described his call for fairness ‘hypocritical’, coming from ‘someone who had broken all the rules’.

But an angry Coun Andrew Tebbutt said that in the hunt for £35million of savings, the Labour group will need as much support as it can get and was going about it the wrong way by not allowing opposition members to serve as the scrutiny heads, as they had under the previous administration.

Alnwick member Coun Gordon Castle, a former scrutiny committee head, pointed out that the chairmen needed ‘a degree of independence and judgement’ and that Labour could have had ‘a much easier ride than you’re going to get now’.

After a lengthy debate, Coun Jackson called for the third named vote of the meeting, which saw the amendment thrown out.

The first vote at the meeting was for a new role, business chairman, to sit in the chair during council meetings.

But Coun Jackson opened with an amendment to defer the decision until more information of the role was provided, claiming that its aim was to ‘create a one-party state in Northumberland’.

He also called for a full named vote, in which each of the 67 members is asked for his vote in turn, on both this motion and the ensuing vote, which saw new Druridge Bay councillor Scott Dickinson elected.

There were groans in the chamber as Coun Jackson called for another named vote on the election of the council’s leader, despite saying that his group recognised that Labour had won the most seats and would not oppose the election of Grant Davey, who won the vote.

Amble ward member Coun Robert Arckless was elected as the policy board member for children’s services.

As reported on the Gazette website, Norham and Islandshires councillor Dougie Watkin fell short in the vote to take over as leader of the Lib Dem group, failing to oust former council leader Jeff Reid by one vote.

Coun Heather Cairns, elected as one of two Alnwick members, was appointed deputy leader of the group.

For more from the meeting, visit www.northumberland gazetee.co.uk

decision until more information of the role was provided, claiming that its aim was to ‘create a one-party state in Northumberland’.

He also called for a full named vote, in which each of the 67 members is asked for his vote in turn, on both this motion and the ensuing vote, which saw new Druridge Bay councillor Scott Dickinson elected.

There were groans in the chamber as Coun Jackson called for another named vote on the election of the council’s leader, despite saying that his group recognised that Labour had won the most seats and would not oppose the election of Grant Davey, who won the vote.

Amble ward member Coun Robert Arckless was elected as the policy board member for children’s services.

As reported on the Gazette website, Norham and Islandshires councillor Dougie Watkin fell short in the vote to take over as leader of the Lib Dem group, failing to oust former council leader Jeff Reid by one vote.

Coun Heather Cairns, elected as one of two Alnwick members, was appointed deputy leader of the group.

For more from the meeting, visit www.northumberland gazetee.co.uk