Conservatives walk out on Norfolk County Council committee talks
17:27 16 January 2014
Conservative councillors have walked out on talks over creating a committee system at Norfolk County Council - after their proposals were rejected.
Members of Norfolk County Council voted in November, by 41 to 35, with two abstentions, for a proposal to move away from the current cabinet model in favour of a form of committee governance from May this year.
Following that decision, a cross party steering group of councillors was formed to consider the details of how the new arrangements will work, ahead of a vote on the final structure in April.
The steering group - made up of two Labour councillors, two Conservative councillors, two Green councillors, two Liberal Democrat councillors, two UK Independence Party councillors and independent Richard Bird - met at County Hall today.
But the Conservatives - Cliff Jordan and Alison Thomas - walked out of the meeting, saying they would no longer participate in an “undemocratic process”.
The Conservatives had tabled their own proposals for a new committee system, which they said would give all members democratic participation and oversight on decisions.
But the Conservative proposal was defeated. UKIP councillor Paul Smyth, chairman of the steering group, used his casting vote to reject the proposal after it was tied at five votes for and five votes against, with one abstention.
The Conservatives, who lost control of County Hall to a Labour/Liberal Democrat administration supported by UKIP last May, said they were unhappy at the democratic representation on the steering group, which offers equal representation to each party, regardless of their size.
Mr Jordan said: “The Rainbow Alliance has clubbed together to ensure the Conservatives, which have 25 more seats than their nearest rival, don’t have a real say on issues.
“Enough is enough: our views have been ignored and ridiculed, while our experience counts for naught; we will no longer give this undemocratic process a veneer of democracy by participating.”
George Nobbs, Labour leader of the council said: “I am very surprised that such senior and seasoned figures as Cliff Jordan and Alison Thomas would storm out of a meeting just because they did not get their own way.
“I would hope they would reconsider, as this is something the whole council has decided to do and it is a shame if the Conservatives do not want to take part in the democratic process.”
Green group leader Richard Bearman, a member of the steering group who voted against the Conservative recommendation, said of the Conservative withdrawal from talks: “It is very disappointing. We have had two rival proposals - one from Labour and one from the Conservatives and, in my view, they were not too far apart.
“I thought there was scope for compromise and hoped all parties would see the value of coming up with a system that works best for everybody. But I do not know where we go from here.”