Voting confusion at East Riding Council almost leads to opposition Lib Dem candidate elected as authority’s vice chair
East Riding Council’s annual general meeting saw ruling Conservative group members abstain on a vote to elect Liberal Democrat Cllr Phil Davison vice chair, the authority’s equivalent of a deputy mayor.
Conservative Group Secretary Cllr Michael Lee said its members had been confused and did not realise Cllr Davison would be elected if it went through.
Liberal Democrat leader Cllr David Nolan called for the vote to stand, but Conservative candidate Cllr Pauline Greenwood won after Chair Cllr John Whittle allowed it to be held again.
It followed the election of Cllr Whittle, independent member for North Holderness, as chair at the same meeting.
The meeting also saw the number of members of the Planning Committee increased to 13 after Liberal Democrats asked for their Deputy Leader Cllr Denis Healy to be put on.
Cllr Nolan said that committee and others needed to represent councillors from all groups more fairly.
Cllr Lee said Conservatives would accept boosting the number of councillors of the committee and Cllr Healy’s appointment.
Cllr Nolan’s request also came after a recent row over allegations Conservative Planning Committee members were meeting to orchestrate decisions before hearings.
Cllr Nolan said the impression had been given that decisions on applications, such as the Amazon warehouse in Melton, were settled before committee meetings happened.
Cllr Leo Hammond, Conservative chair of the Planning Committee, said meetings were instead held to ensure members were properly informed before voting on applications.
Cllr Owen said Conservative members would be insulted by suggestions that someone else was making their minds up for them.
Incoming Chair Cllr Whittle served as deputy chair under outgoing Chair Conservative Cllr Nigel Wilkinson, of Howdenshire ward.
The North Holderness member is the second both from that ward and from the Independent group to serve as chair, with the first being Cllr Barbara Jefferson 15 years ago.
Councillors heard Cllr Whittle had served as mayor of Hornsea, where he lives with his wife and consort Jane and has a business, six times.
Members also heard he served on the board of governors at a nursery and primary school. is an amateur dramatics enthusiast and still occasionally acts.
Cllr Whittle said he hoped to serve as the council’s ambassador as the East Riding emerges into he dubbed the brave new world of sort-of post-coronavirus.
He added he wanted to use the role to meet more frontline council workers and he thanked locals who had helped with efforts to aid Ukraine, including taking in refugees.
Clr Whittle said: “I plan to use my role as the conscience of the council in an inward looking way.
“I pledge to attend as many functions as I can and council meetings will be chaired by the book.
“People at the pointy end of the ship tend to be the ones most visible to residents so I want to meet as many of them as I can.
“But as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic we’re plunged into another crisis, the mindless violence and barbarism of the war in Ukraine.”
Cllr Whittle said following the deputy chair vote: “I hope the rest of the running of the council doesn’t go like that.”
Conservative leader of the Council Cllr Jonathan Owen thanked Cllr Wilkinson for his service and congratulated Cllr Whittle on becoming chair.
He also welcomed Cllr Anne Handley to the post of deputy leader of the council after her victory at the Conservative group AGM.
Cllr Owen paid tribute to Cllr John Holtby who stood down from the role but is staying on as portfolio holder for corporate services, revenue and benefits in the Council’s cabinet.