Comment on Deputy Mayor appointment
By Cllr Bob Barr, Liberal Democrat Group Leader
The Liberal Democrat Group on the Borough Council seeks to achieve cross-party consensus whenever possible, while responsibly opposing policies we do not agree with.
This has been increasingly difficult under Cllr Russ Bowden's leadership of the Council where what he says goes and is loyally supported by the Labour group. This has led to some errors of judgement which have not been open to proper scrutiny or challenge.
The last bastion of depoliticised cross-party consensus has been the Mayoral Selection Committee, which has never been contentious. The Mayoralty is rotated between parties based on proportionality and taking turns, so it came as a great surprise when Cllrs Bowden and Mitchell rejected convention to vote in a Labour candidate for Deputy Mayor. However worthy their candidate was, it was clearly the Conservatives' turn and they had a very appropriate candidate.
Very unusually, the vote on the selection of the Deputy Mayor was split and Cllr Bowden used his casting vote to force through his favoured Labour candidate.
There has been serious acrimony on the Council since the election of 11 Conservatives in the May 2021 elections. The behaviour, attacks on the Council, and unreasonable undeliverable policies from the Conservatives have caused a great deal of ill feeling. However, politicising and fixing the selection of a Deputy Mayor was not the right way to deal with it.
This was yet another serious error of judgment by Cllr Bowden.