Backbench Tories ‘ignored’ by South Norfolk Council leaders

The leader of South Norfolk Council yesterday insisted that there were no communication problems within his Conservative group, despite criticism from a backbench colleague.

Tory councillor Jon Herbert accused the district council's leadership of not listening to fellow members and a lack of communication after a post-election shake-up of committee memberships, cabinet roles and responsibilities.

In an email sent to all members of the local authority, the Mulbarton councillor said he felt that backbench Conservatives were being ignored by leaders.

'It seems to me that our communication is far from businesslike and efficient. Cabinet members have no direction/one-to-ones to ascertain progress against objectives; they find out from staff or email that they no longer have a portfolio; chairmen and vice-chairmen find out by email late on Saturday night that they have lost their chairmanships. This can not be right. Backbenchers need to be listened to,' he said.

The criticism comes after Mr Herbert, who is also a Norfolk County councillor, was not reinstated as chairman of South Norfolk Council's accounts and audit committee following the local elections in May.

His email added: 'Far from meeting with members – particularly the new members – and understanding their skill sets and CVs, I am told that senior roles are allocated not on skills but on how hard they worked in the election and how many times they were on the conference calls.

'All that has happened is a crude allocation process that has ignored many of our wishes.'

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But John Fuller, leader of South Norfolk Council, said the authority's 38 Conservative councillors were regularly updated and it was difficult to please all members.

'Emails happen all the time and we keep the group updated. We have got some really good talented members coming through and some of the others feel they are overlooked. The harder you work, the greater the rewards,' he said.

Murray Gray, leader of the South Norfolk Liberal Democrat group, said: 'The email shows a very worrying aspect of the leadership at South Norfolk Council in that too much power appears to be concentrated on the leader of the council who is failing to communicate properly and heed the views of his backbenchers.'

Mr Herbert yesterday declined to comment on the email.

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