Scarborough Councillor Michelle Donohue-Moncrieff resigns from Independent Group

An Independent Scarborough councillor has announced that she is to become even more independent moving forward.

Monday, 9th December 2019, 4:21 pm
Updated Monday, 9th December 2019, 4:22 pm
Cllr Michelle Donohue-Moncrieff.

Cllr Michelle Donohue-Moncrieff has resigned from the Independent Group on the borough council due to her concerns about its support for the minority Labour administration.

Cllr Donohue-Moncrieff’s resignation comes shortly after the group bolstered its ranks after former Conservative Cllr Andrew Backhouse joined the Independents after he was not selected to fight for his county seat in 2021 by the Tories.

Cllr Donohue-Moncrieff, who will now not sit on any group, tweeted a link to a letter explaining her decision.

In it, she says she has concerns about a new committee system that has been worked on by the Labour administration and its leader Cllr Steve Siddons since it took power in May.

She wrote: “In the past few weeks, the final details of the leader’s long-awaited new committee system have been finalised. While I didn’t agree with aspects of the proposed structure, I was led to believe that the issue of the Strong Leader model would be looked at. Therefore, I was willing to compromise.

“At a meeting on Thursday night, I was informed that the leader had refused to concede on the Strong Leader model.

“I asked if he was willing to put something on record about his intentions in relation to future reform of the leader’s role. Sadly, I did not receive assurances on this point.”

Currently, Scarborough has a cabinet system made up of the leader, Cllr Siddons, and three portfolio holders, two Labour and one Independent. The Independent Group is pushing for more representation in the expanded system as its 10 councillors are needed by Labour, which has 13 seats on the 46-member authority.

Cllr Donohue-Moncrieff added: “This issue may be a boring technical point but it really matters as it will fundamentally undermine the proposed new committees as the real power to make decisions would remain with the leader and the executive.

“This means that the leader and his cabinet, no matter how well-intentioned, would have the power in law to override recommendations from councillors. That’s not democracy.

“On that basis, I have deep reservations about the governance reform that is to be sold to the public in the coming weeks. While there are some improvements, it looks like an expanded version of what we have now.

“This is tinkering at the edges when radical fundamental transformation is so desperately required.”

Speaking in May, council leader Cllr Steve Siddons said he wanted to involve all councillors in decision making.

He said: “He said: “All [the councillors] in that chamber have skills and I think we need to harness them and not close them off. They have been elected by people to make a difference here and we have got to put a mechanism in place to allow them to do that.”

The new structure is set to be revealed early next year.

In response to Cllr Donohue-Moncrieff’s claims, Cllr Siddons said: “We are looking at a series of ideas to change Scarborough Council so all councillors can have input to all key decisions. They can then properly represent their constituents.

“There are no ‘agreed’ or costed plans at this stage. A report will go to the full council for a decision by all councillors.”

Cllr Donohue-Moncrieff has been approached for comment.