The first full council meeting since the elections took place on 24 May. The main business of this meeting is to elect the Leader – which on this occasion was under the new “Strong Leader” method for a period of four years. The Leader than has the job of appointing his Executive (much like a Cabinet). The Council then elects Chairmen for all the various committees including the important Development Control, Scrutiny and Audit committees.
Naturally since we have a “hung council” with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats having almost equal representation, and with ourselves holding the “balance of power” there were extensive discussions beforehand in meetings and by e-mail in which David Howell, as the leader of our group, played an important role. Our objective all along, as it has been since this time last year when the same situation applied, has been to achieve a cross-party Executive employing skills and talents across the chamber. Last year neither major party would accept this and so reluctantly we agreed to enable the Conservatives, as the larger party, to form the Executive. During the year, after a by-election the Liberal Democrats became the larger party, and themselves offered a 3-3-1 Executive structure. However at that stage in the year, with the Conservatives clearly adopting a collaborative stance and allowing discussion in the Chamber on important issues, we felt that a change would be detrimental to the interests of the District.
Now the situation remains as it was following the by-election, but this time the Liberal Democrats refused to accept a 3-3-1 structure and insisted on control of the Executive despite the fact that this is not the situation in the full Council. The Conservatives by contrast offered and indeed promoted 3-3-1 and for this and for the collaborative approach which he had shown over the year, we decided to support their candidate for Leader. Once in post he again offered the Liberal Democrats three Executive portfolios. Unfortunately they again declined, with the result that we accepted two Executive positions with the Conservatives taking four. We remain disappointed, but look forward to the opportunity of serving the District as a whole. We hope that our approach will encourage other Independent candidates to stand elsewhere in the District.
The Liberal Democrats do now hold the chairmanship of most of the Council committees including the three mentioned above. It remains to be seen how they will exercise their influence in these positions.