'A waste of time': Scarborough Council leader Steve Siddons survives second vote of no confidence

The leader of Scarborough Council has survived a vote of no confidence following a heated meeting of the authority this afternoon.

By Carl Gavaghan, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Thursday, 28th January 2021, 5:05 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th January 2021, 5:08 pm

Five independent councillors on the borough council brought a motion against the Labour leader, Cllr Steve Siddons, arguing that it was time for a new person to be at the head of the authority.

Following almost two hours of debate the motion was defeated by 20 votes to 25.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Siddons said that the motion had been a “waste of time”.

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Cllr Steve Siddons: “It’s a huge waste of time and resources and our reputation as a respected decision making body has been harmed."

He said: “This was a needless and pointless action today brought about by some councillors who still do not understand the job they were elected to do.

“It’s a huge waste of time and resources and our reputation as a respected decision making body has been harmed, not just locally but across the region and wider world.

“It will be business as usual, as far as I’m concerned, doing what is right to improve the life of each and every resident of this borough.”

It was the second motion of no confidence faced by Cllr Siddons and his cabinet, following a failed challenge in January last year which the leader won by 26 votes to 16.

Today’s motion, like the previous no confidence challenge, was brought by Cllr Bill Chatt, a cabinet member under the previous Conservative regime and now part of the Cluster of Independent Members (CIM) group.

The motion was backed by Cllr Mike Cockerill, leader of the CIM, and Yorkshire Coast Independents Alliance (YCIA) leader Cllr Neil Heritage along with his fellow group members Sam Cross and Guy Smith.

During the discussions today Cllr Chatt said that councillors had not been involved in decisions taken by the authority and that a number of promises had not been delivered upon by Cllr Siddons.

He added that the three independent groups, which between them have 16 of the 46 councillors, should be running the council.

Cllr Chatt said: “There is no other group that has majority, there is no other group that has a clear steer from the people of Scarborough who say it is about time we got rid of the old politics.

“It is about time we got rid of the standard [procedure] of being told what you can do from Westminster. It’s about time local people are put first.”

He added: “We need to say that the independents have decided who is going to be the leader of this council, should be the leader of this council and should be the main group in there making all these major decisions.”

Cllr Chatt said that Cllr Siddons had failed to be “open and transparent” with decision making, which he promised to do when he became leader, and cited the failure of the council’s bid for £10million in funding from the Government’s Future High Street Fund as a reason for concern.

Cllr Mike Cockerill also called for a “rainbow coalition” to run the council under a new independent leader to take the council forward.

The 13-strong Labour Group has been running the council with the support of Independent Group councillors since May 2019.

However, a number of recent resignations from parties and groups has shaken up the political balance of the council.

Now, the Labour and the Conservatives both have 13 seats, followed by the Independent Group with seven, the YCIA has five, the Cluster of Independent Members has four and the Green Party two. There are also two councillors without political affiliation.

During the debate a number of councillors made claims about individuals from outside the council seeking to manipulate the authority.

Cllr Paul Riley of the Independent Group even claimed that some councillors had been “unduly influenced” by a “Dr Strangelove” figure, referencing the titular character from the Stanley Kubrick film.

Following the vote, the Mayor of Scarborough, Conservative Cllr Hazel Lynskey, the only Tory to vote against the motion, told the meeting of her feelings on the motion.

She said: “I would just like to say that as one of you, not as Mayor, that this is one of the most disappointing days that I have had because when you think that thousands of people are dying, companies are going bust, people are losing their jobs [then to] not only the five people who signed the paper but the people behind them wheeling and dealing to make it happen I would just like to say congratulations Cllr Siddons and you move forward in building a better borough.”

Convention dictates that a leader who loses a no confidence motion resigns immediately and a vote for a new leader takes place.