Reader Letter: Leader of District Council calls for defectors to resign
- Credit: Norfolk Conservatives
I am writing following the press reports about the recent resignations of four councillors from the Conservative Group on North Norfolk District Council. These councillors suggest they have concerns with the Cabinet system of governance at the council, and/or apparently now disagree with the policies on which they stood and on which all but one were elected, for the first time, in 2015.
As to the Cabinet system, this was put in place at NNDC about 16 years ago by the previous Lib Dem administration. It is the model used by the vast majority of councils in England and Wales and was originally introduced by the last Labour government to speed up decision making and provide proper accountability. Cabinet is held to account by the Overview and Scrutiny committee, which is chaired a member of the opposition group. It is responsible for making sure that the democratic checks and balances are in place. The leader is elected by Full Council and he/she, with the other Cabinet members, implement the Council's Corporate Plan, within the budget agreed annually. Our Corporate plan is firmly based on the manifesto commitments of the majority Conservative Group which the people of North Norfolk elected us to deliver, and with a sizeable majority.
At NNDC we can have up to ten Cabinet members. They are selected from those who are able to commit a great deal of time to council business (which of course not everyone can) and also for their relevant personal experience and knowledge. Whilst I recognise a few will be disappointed at not being in Cabinet, that is not really a concern about a Cabinet system as such; indeed, none of these four councillors has actually ever proposed giving up that Cabinet system.
Councillor Perry-Warnes states we should work together for the best outcome for the people of North Norfolk, and treat everyone with respect, even when views differ.
Many would add that there is also a democratic requirement to respect the majority view, whether by accepting the outcome of a council leadership election, or of a national referendum, or by supporting policies on which you were elected by the majority.
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One such policy is our determination to protect our outstanding countryside from large on-shore wind turbines. We took legal action twice to defend the Development Committee's rejection of the Bodham turbines.
Cllr Perry-Warnes has spoken in favour of building turbines at Bodham and the Conservative Group respects her right to do what she believes is best for her residents. However because Cllr Perry-Warnes wants on shore wind turbines built, she has fought against the council's position of opposing them and seems to wish her personal viewpoint to overturn that policy.
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It would be undemocratic and unfair to allow Cllr Perry-Warnes' views to prevail over the wishes of the majority, even if that means she, or others, become unhappy with this administration.
More generally, if these four councillors have decided to give up the policies of the Conservative Group, which we have been implementing since 2011 and which were our – and their- election promises in 2015, the most honest thing would be for them to resign and go back to the electors. If they cannot bring themselves to risk losing their seats in a by-election, they should carry out a survey of everyone on their electoral roll, explain exactly their new beliefs, and ask their electors to say what they think. Otherwise, the electors' rights to have the policies and the administration they voted for, have just been trampled all over.
I should add that I had asked Cllr Doug Smith, who has left Sheringham to live in Kent, and who voted with these four councillors at our last leadership election, to similarly stand down and that this was done prior to any press article appearing. Regrettably, he has not done so.
I call on all these five councillors to stand down and allow the voters of North Norfolk to exercise their democratic right to choose councillors who continue to represent the platform they presented to their electors, and who will work to deliver those promises.
I remain, yours sincerely,
COUNCILLOR TOM FITZPATRICK
Leader of North Norfolk District Council and Leader of the Conservative Group.