Motion of no confidence in Scarborough Council leader to be heard in the new year
A motion of no confidence in the leader of Scarborough Council will be heard in the New Year, it has been confirmed today.
Representatives of two independent groups and the Conservatives submitted the no-confidence motion in Labour’s Steve Siddons on Tuesday saying he had failed to follow through on the promises he made when he was elected in May.
The move could see the Conservatives or the independents take control of the borough authority.
It has now been confirmed that the motion has been accepted and a special meeting for the debate and vote will take place on Friday January 3.
Convention dictates that a leader who loses a no-confidence motion should resign, though an amendment will be added on the day saying the leader should go immediately if the vote goes against him.
Since the local elections seven months ago the 13-strong Labour Group has been running the 46-member council with the support of the 10 Independent Group councillors and two Green Party councillors.
The no-confidence motion was proposed by Cllr Bill Chatt, a cabinet member under the previous Conservative regime and now the leader of the three-strong Cluster of Independent Members (CIM) group.
The motion was also signed by two Conservative councillors and Independent Group leader Cllr Sam Cross. Independent Cllr John Casey was the final signatory.
Cllr Chatt told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that there had been no communication from the leader and it had lead to councillors losing confidence in the direction of the council.
He said: “There has been no communication from the leader at all. The decision [not to bid for] the Tour de Yorkshire is one example, the first I read of it was online. Where was the discussion with members?
“I’ve just seen that the public are going to be allowed to ask questions at full council, again why has that not gone to members to be voted on?
“He talked about openness and transparency but it is just him and his three cabinet members making decisions and they are all from Scarborough wards. People say to me what are we doing for Filey and Whitby and I have to say I don’t know because we are not being told anything.”
Cllr Chatt said that he would not be putting himself forward to be leader, which will be voted on by councillors on Monday January 6 should Cllr Siddons lose the vote.
He added that there would be discussions before the no-confidence motion between himself, the Conservatives and the Independent Group to see which person or persons are put forward on any leadership ballot.
Cllr Chatt said: “The big issue here is that we had an election a week ago and the people of Scarborough clearly said they preferred the Conservatives over Labour.
“Labour only came third [in May’s local elections] and he’s acting like he has a total mandate.”
The Local Democracy Service has been told that the failure of the Labour leader to compromise on a new committee structure for the authority caused the breakdown in the relationship between his party and the Independent Group.
The Independent Group wanted three committees to be created, matching the director structure of the council, and also for an independent councillor to be named as deputy leader.
Cllr Phil Kershaw, Woodlands ward councillor and Independent Group member, said the group had an agreement with Cllr Siddons for the new structure only for the leader to change his mind, which prompted the move.
He said: “The model the independents proposed and we decided on was totally democratic and it was a great surprise when Steve Siddons turned his back on it at the 11th hour.”
The Independent Group leader Cllr Cross said that the refusal by Cllr Siddons to give up the “strong leader” model of governance was behind his support for the no-confidence vote.
As to what happens should Cllr Siddons step down, Cllr Cross said he would not rule out voting for a councillor from any party to be the new leader.
He said: “I am not ruling out or saying I will vote for anybody.
“As an independent, the most important thing for me is the good of the borough. We are not whipped and can vote as we see best, there are no party politics.”
Cllr Cross also highlighted the recent General Election result as a reason for the need for a change in council leadership.
Labour leader Cllr Steve Siddons confirmed that there had been an agreement in place for a new committee structure which would have added one extra Labour councillor and two independents to the cabinet.
He said: “We had an agreement then they came back asking for more than we had agreed.”
The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands that the issue was a request for Cllr Cross to be named deputy leader, which Labour members rejected, in part due to him having voted against a Labour-backed redevelopment project earlier in the year.
In an email sent to the Independent Group on December 5, seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Cllr Cross tells his fellow councillors he would be proposing himself as deputy leader of the council.
He finished the email saying ”I feel strongly that we are now in a position to change SBC for the better.”
Cllr Cross denied the deputy leadership issue was a factor in him supporting the no-confidence motion.
In response to the motion, Cllr Siddons today said he was “getting on with council business.”
He added: “I’ll just get on with what we have set out to do which is to deliver the Labour manifesto and deliver the change in the council that people voted for.
“We have made a number of announcements this week and not just because I find myself in a tricky situation those were always coming to come out and would have done so much earlier had it not been for purdah.
“The is an unnecessary distraction from getting on with delivering the change and exciting plans we have for the borough.”
Should Cllr Siddons step down potential frontrunners mentioned to the Local Democracy Reporting Service to succeed him include Cllr Cross, former council leader Conservative Derek Bastiman and current deputy leader and Labour councillor Liz Colling.