2 October: The New Leader
Yesterday, after rate vote of confidence recently, there was an Extraordinary Full Council meeting to elect the new Council Leader. Unlike the previous vote, this was a secret ballot. The result was:
- Cllr Mellor: 40 votes
- Cllr Slade: 33 votes
- Abstention: 1
Cllr Mellor’s closing address is reproduced below, as far as I can. No doubt he will be an excellent Leader, so this is not a political statement. However, the speech was dreadfully presented and often difficult to hear, so there may be errors in the transcription – if I had used [sic] whenever there was an error, it would have several of them. There was also no eye contact at all. You can see it here, at around 1hr 24 minutes. You can get an idea from the picture below, taken during the speech. Where I have not been able to transcribe, it is shown by xxx.
(Chair): Can I call upon Councillor Mellor, please, to address the Council.
(Cllr Mellor): Thank you very much, Chair, and thank you very much, members, for your support. Please can I give my assurance that I recognise the responsibility entrusted to me and I will always do my best to act in the interests of residents and all of BCP. I undertake to lead a Council which is collaborative, accountable and fair, collaborative in a way in which we value the voices and opinions of those who work with us, accountable to our residents and partners, and fair to those for whom we serve.
It is customary at this point to set out my vision and programme for the administration and the membership and portfolio to the Cabinet. I’m surrounded by such a wealth of experience and talent across this chamber that this would not only be challenging, but also an enjoyable exercise. However, rather than do this immediately, I want to ensure that we restored every opportunity and set the tone and how I intend to lead this council. It would be a reasonable expectation of any resident in normal times that their council is delivering high quality public services, that they feel safe in their local neighbourhood, that vulnerable people are supported, that the beaches are clean, that their town centres and destinations they wish to visit.
However, these are not normal times. And while many of these things have become even more important to our residents, is very clear that their expectations have in many cases not been met. An inability to make decisions that hampered the previous administration’s capacity to act in an agile, decisive and timely manner. It was decision making of the lowest common denominator at times, at the pace of the slowest and has squandered some of the opportunities which came its way.
A seven party coalition was an inviting concept, but not an effective way to run a council. Having said that, the principle of collective decision-making is well established and has many advantages: internal challenge, inclusivity and likely to pass the common sense test. Once it became clear that the Unity Alliance could no longer command the support of this Council, the Conservative group set out to explore the options for establishing a secure and stable administration, which will last until 2023, one which would give our residents a commitment to the plans will be delivered and clarity about the sense of direction.
National government look for stability when choosing to invest, and our town’s high streets and infrastructure need it now more than ever.
As Councillor Slade noted only yesterday, many councillors have felt excluded from the decision making of the administration she led. In contrast, recognising the wide range of skills and experience they have, it is my intention to bring as many councillors on board as possible, beginning by talking to those from other political groups and seeking also the input of those who have no party political affiliation. To that end, as the next largest party, we spoke first with the Liberal Democrats, knowing that in many cases our plans for local government are not so widely divergent, but were met with a flat no.
Sadly, the principal driver appeared to be their fear of losing out at the ballot box at the next election. While disappointingly and transparently not in the interests of residents, that answer appears to be final.
We have also spoken with the Christchurch Independents, and while their response has not been warm, I would like to take this opportunity to make an appeal to them. We respect the position you took protecting the interests of your residents. You campaigned on principle and you were successful. You have represented your residents and you have succeeded in what you set out to do. Let me say this very clearly: we get it, we have listened to what you said.
So what now for Christchurch, and what now for Christchurch Independents? What is it that you seek for your residents and what is in their best interests? Is it complaining from the sidelines? Is it repeatedly fighting battles which you’ve already won, becoming the bore in the corner of the pub, endlessly going over past triumphs which become mistier with time?
To be clear, is it taking refusing to take yes for an answer or is it working with a partner who you clearly have much in common with? Is it having the opportunity to make a difference to your residents? Is it building the leadership shown by Councillor Phipps on development of the local plan, whose impact will be felt everywhere across BCP xxx in Christchurch.
Chairman, I will set out my vision for this administration in due course and I will discuss this with the Chief Executive at the first opportunity.
I would like to make a clear and open offer to the Christchurch Independents to take a weekend to talk with us about how we can come together in the best interests of all those whose trust we ask in seeking election. Our offer is no more and no less than the one you agreed to in joining the former Unity Alliance. Please come and talk to us.
In closing, Chairman, I look forward to bringing forward details of my Cabinet and other appointments and members of the Council in the very near future and to working with anyone who would join us to deliver what the residents of BCP deserve. We want to preserve our outstanding natural environment and protect our ancient, medieval and more modern history while embracing 21st century future.
We want to celebrate our towns, villages, high streets, harbours, piers, beaches, parks and gardens providing high quality education, work and leisure facilities, all the while showing compassion to those who need our help, including from Hamworthy to Highcliffe, Broadstone to xxx, from Westbourne to West Howe our purpose is to make your area the place where people want to be, where young people thrive, where businesses prosper, where those in work flourish, where there is help for those who need it, and where the elderly are valued, where residents and visitors of all ages feel safe.
We are living in wholly unprecedented times and worrying times, Chairman. And it is our job to get some certainty, confidence and optimism to our communities. And I look forward to bringing this to you very soon, I thank the Council for their support.
You can read the Echo report – and the many comments! – here.
More About the Vote
17 September: The Echo has published more detail about the meeting.
I have not quoted the article in full, as you can read it for yourself. However, the final quote from Cllr Mellor is reproduced below, together with confirmation that he will be standing as Leader next month.
‘We are delighted to have carried the support of such a majority of councillors that puts clear blue water between the past and future. I would like to thank Cllr Slade for what was undeniably a significant effort over the last 16 months.’
(from The Echo): At the October 1 meeting, Cllr Mellor will be put forward as the Conservative candidate for council leader while the Unity Alliance has already agreed to put Cllr Slade forward as its candidate.
What Happened Last Night:
This published 16 September, the Meeting was 15 September
The generally-expected result was confirmed, and Cllr Slade lost the vote. It had been tabled after the deaths of David Flagg and Pete Parrish in the summer, and then the recent resignation of Julie Bagwell from the Unity Alliance.
The result was 33-39 against the Alliance. Therefore Vikki Slade is no longer the leader, and her Deputy, Mark Howell, has taken over the reins until a new Leader is elected on October 1.
As I was writing this, I received the following email from the Council, which I have published in full as it is public domain anyway:
‘A motion of no confidence was passed at Full Council on Tuesday 15 September.
‘Therefore, Councillor Slade ceased to be Leader of the council. According to the constitution of the council, Councillor Mark Howell, Deputy Leader, will now act temporarily in the Leader’s role.
‘An Extraordinary Full Council meeting will be held at 7pm on Thursday 1 October 2020, to elect a Leader of the Council. Following this meeting, the appointed Leader of the Council will select his or her Cabinet and form an administration.’
The meeting is available on YouTube to watch in full now. Watch by clicking the image below (opens in a new window):
Here We Go Again …
On Tuesday 15 September there will be yet another vote of confidence, tabled by opposition Leader Drew Mellor. The meeting starts at 7pm.
This one will be much more difficult for the Unity Alliance. There has been considerable disquiet about various matters, but most significantly the road closures and restrictions, intended to make cycle travel less hazardous. This has caused a lot of frustration among the public, too.
This is the motion, tabled by Drew Mellor, published in the Agenda:
In recent weeks, a number of decisions have been taken by the BCP Council Administration without proper consultation with the residents and businesses who will be affected. Ward Councillors were only consulted or informed, once plans were set to be implemented. This has resulted in a high level of public frustration and mistrust.
It is clear that the ‘Unity Alliance’ administration is making decisions and plans without due regard to resident, business, visitor or councillor comment or suggestions.
This Council therefore has no confidence in the current administration to deliver for the residents of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole and seeks the removal from office of its Leader.
Of course, these Government-led road closures are an issue across the country, with chaos happening from Liverpool to Reading to London and more. I suspect that this one will be much more difficult for Cllr Slade.
Another Vote of Confidence?
There has been some disquiet among the Council, particularly after Cllr Julie Bagwell left the administration because of, and I quote, ‘… a continued catalogue of catastrophic policy decisions.’
So a second vote will be called later this month by the Conservative Group, led by Drew Mellor.
This will be some of the content of the Motion, based on the premise that there is now ‘… a high level of frustration and mistrust:’ Scroll down or click here to read about the previous vote.
‘In recent weeks, a number of decisions have been taken by the BCP Council administration without proper consultation with the residents and businesses who will be affected.
‘Ward councillors were only consulted or informed once plans were set to be implemented. This has resulted in a high level of public frustration and mistrust.’
As usual, I will give no personal opinion about this. Instead, here are two comments giving different views, from the Echo article on 4 September. More – nearly 150 as I write – are available on that site. Let’s just say that feelings are running high.
- Don’t call yourself an “alliance” if you are actually a rag tag band of those who will agree with you whilst ignoring the voices of residents via democratically elected councillors who don’t wear the same coloured rosette or have the same ideals. Even if “a third” of the people only voted Conservative what right does Cn Slade have to lock out those people from having an opinion heard. … It’s [the Alliance] being arrogant, opinionated and run as a fiefdom.
- I would suggest they have had enough of the local Conservatives. Also just look at the u turning fiasco the Conservative government is. People saying they back Boris but have no idea what they are backing as it changes daily!
The First Vote of Confidence – June 2020
This took place quite early in the new council’s tenure and was an attempt by the Conservatives to regain power from the Unity Alliance, led by the LibDem Leader, Cllr Vikki Slade.
The ‘meeting’ was a virtual one, as was required because of the COVID-19 precautions.
- Information from the day before, including document links
- General report on the day, including the result
- Link to the video of the meeting, with transcribed excerpts of my choice!
- Vikki Slade’s online Q&A, the day after
(1) Meeting Tuesday, 9 June 2020
Tonight, Tuesday, the Conservatives are tabling a vote of no confidence in the Leader, Cllr Vikki Slade. Since the death of Cllr Bungay, this seems to be a chance of a power grab, for the Conservatives to get a majority.
The meeting will take place after the regular Council Meeting, which starts at 7pm. Details are here, but notably there is a tribute to Cllr Bungay. Note that on those details of the meeting his name is spelled incorrectly!
Although I try not to express political preferences on this site, I think this is a pity. She has so far done well for the new Council and has regularly made herself available publicly. Many commenters on the Echo website also express their regret.
Here is the agenda. Much more is available using the link from the picture above. I do not know if the meeting will be broadcast live, but will update it if necessary.
There is another article about this meeting. The comments are very interesting, and there could be a lot of bad feeling if it goes the wrong way. Shades of the bad old days?
Here are two paragraphs from the article:
‘A petition set up in support of Cllr Slade and the Unity Alliance has received more than 1,600 signatures.
‘Tonight’s full council meeting, which will be held virtually via Skype, is due to begin at 7pm. BCP Council will be streaming the meeting online and you can follow the meeting live on the Daily Echo website with updates from Local Democracy Reporter Josh Wright.’
(2) The Result
Yesterday, Tuesday 9 June, the Conservatives fought the vote of no confidence in the Leader, Cllr Vikki Slade. I watched the whole thing until the vote finished at around 10.45pm, and the comments below are my personal view.
To begin at the end: it was as close as it could be, 37 votes each way, with one abstention. Therefore the chairman had the casting vote, and it was rightly put against the motion, in the name of the sadly deceased Cllr Bungay, who would also certainly have voted against.
Justice was indeed served. The close result was expected, the Conservatives would not have tried if there was no chance of winning.
Winning – that seemed to be the overriding theme of the evening, especially from some Conservatives. I was most disturbed that Cllr Stribley (Conservative) became quite stroppy when she was unsure that a vote had been cast correctly. It reminded me of some of the machinations of old: win, whatever it takes!
I was also struck that some of the Councillors were very young. They spoke well, too, on policy and in praise of Cllr Slade. Similar praise had come from all, including the Conservatives. I am sure they meant it, too!
The correct result in the end!
(3) Video and Further Details
I use the term report quite loosely here, this section is just to give a flavour of the meeting. There is a link to the video and transcripts of the closing speeches of the two protagonists, Vikki Slade for the current Unity Alliance and Drew Mellor for the Conservatives.
The video is approaching four hours in length. It was very interesting, but significant if you have not got the time to watch it all, the closing speeches and voting takes place from 3hr 15 minutes. The transcriptions are, I hope, accurate; I wish I could have done them all, but life is too short! The two additional videos were chosen by me, one for each side.
Cllr Vikki Slade, Leader of the Council
During the pandemic this Council has received widespread praise for the speed of its response and our engagement with the public. So it is really disappointing that this has gone from being a time when we are considering the needs of our public to self-indulgent political power play. It is really disappointing that so few councils who brought this motion forward have expressed their real concerns, and against the backdrop of toxic politics this Unity Council has become a beacon of collaboration and cooperation in local governance.
It is a Council that welcomes diversity of thought and whose members hold each other to account. We’ve adopted policies that put people first hoping to create brighter futures for children, kickstarting regeneration and prioritizing the protection of the environment. We have listened and acted on suggestions by members right across the chamber. We’ve listened to peers from other councils. We’ve listened to our residents, listened to the experts. We’ve deferred decisions where we’ve needed more time to consider the wider implications, and we’ve brought forward exciting plans to put our region firmly on the map. Transformation needs transformational leadership, and we’re delivering that right now. Everybody knows I did not support the creation of BCP Council, but I will now publicly say that I was wrong. I have nothing to fear from its creation. What I feared was a BCP Council running the way the previous Conservative-dominated predecessor councils were run. But through cooperation and consensus, we built a new approach, a new way. And although some members were elected for the first time last year, we should be listening to their fresh ideas and their lack of political baggage is hugely refreshing. Building a new council with trust with our residents is beginning to show. And I think it’s disingenuous to suggest that a cabinet of ten can include Conservative councillors without excluding a number of smaller parties. It’s plain wrong to state that we won’t work with the Conservatives when we’ve created working groups and roles and board places specifically to enable it. And it’s naive to promise not to bring a vote of no confidence in the wake of the death of a colleague, then go back on your word and then expect us to believe in the promises that you make.
I’ve already agreed a working group to consider the merits of a committee system to open up Council more. We’ll leave members to decide if it’s right, ask committee to review, to give residents more say through community councils, and maintain an open door approach. You say you’re a minority council and don’t have the confidence, well, so would a conservative group of the same number. Having a working majority means we work harder and we make better policy. Consider the wider community and engage more constructively. I’m not afraid of that, nor are my colleagues in the alliance. A change of administration now will clearly lead to a change of policy priorities. Where is your commitment to connecting our communities, protecting the bottom or to our children’s future? I’ve heard nothing apart from money. The last thing we need is months of turmoil while a new administration finds its feat, creating chaos and instability when we need to reset, rebuild and reimagine. Please reject this vote of no confidence.
Cllr Rachel Maidment, supporting Cllr Slade
I became involved in politics a relatively short time ago because I felt disillusioned and unrepresented. The Unity Alliance, and Councillor Slade in particular, have for the first time made me feel I am represented. Bringing together a range of political views and ideas is a strength, not a weakness. Having this collaboration enables us to have broader representation than that of a single whipped party.
As a Unity Alliance, we do not have a weapon, we are free to vote with conscience at all times. But we found that there’s so much more that binds us together than separates us. I am proud to stand alongside my Unity Alliance colleagues and friends. Our diversity in the Alliance and Councillor Slade’s cabinet is a strength. Young people feel engaged and represented more than ever before. We are hearing the voices of those who will be impacted by these decisions for years to come. Ideas are new, they’re innovative, they’re fresh, they replace the old failed methods so clearly rejected by the electorate twelve months ago. And finally, Councillor Slade’s leadership have been nothing short of inspirational. She’s respected across the political spectrum and I have never known a more accessible leader. She leads clearly and with authority, however demonstrates support and empathy to all of us. She is always willing to offer guidance and advice, giving new members like me the confidence to grow and develop, and I couldn’t wish for a better example to learn from.
Councillor Drew Mellor, Conservative Leader
First of all, I’ll start by completely agreeing with Councillor Moore. You know, this is a time for unity and that’s exactly what we offered to sit down and discuss, actively offering to take politics out of this at a time of crisis when the minority alliance is too paralyzed, and three short of a majority. A minority alliance is not what we need at this time.
The Conservatives were not rejected at the ballot box. We are the largest party, with nineteen more seats than the nearest group, more than double the next largest group. There are as many Conservatives as Alliance members, both with 36, and every Conservative member is currently excluded from the Alliance and from the Cabinet. The Alliance is in itself an opportunistic creation that wasn’t voted on by the electorate. There are many great things in the creation of it, and the politics it purports to represent. I genuinely believe that the Alliance is being able to move some of the politics of BCB forward and we can take it further from here. It shows that a diverse group of people with very different views can work together. And I commend that. It just doesn’t go far enough. It is not a Unity Alliance, but an anti-Conservative alliance, which is not good enough in this time of crisis when it means there is no way to be a minority administration.
Just to be really clear, I’m absolutely not advocating a Conservative takeover, but an alliance that doesn’t exclude any Councillors by their party.And it was raised by Labour, who they could work or who they could work with. But we’ve had it checked with Central Office and every member of this Council would be clear and welcome to work with us. No party would be excluded by us. We’ve got such an opportunity to take this forward. We can do it, we can become a true beacon of democracy where no party is excluded. We need that unity at this time of crisis. And I commend this motion.
Cllr Ann Stribley, Supporting Cllr Mellor
Thank you, Chairman. I hadn’t intended to speak, but having listened to the debate very carefully, I’m disappointed to have noticed that virtually every speaker from the administration was carefully reading a script and not actually listening to what colleagues were saying. No Councillor is elected to be a member of the opposition and therefore the opinions of no Councillor should be disregarded through the operation of the Council, and the fact is that Councillor Slade flatly refused to work with the Conservatives.
Councillor Miles referred to Poole Hospital losing its A&E and seemed to think that was a Conservative issue. If he knew anything about the NHS, he would know that is not so. I have been for nine years a Governor of Poole Hospital, and it was a proposal from the CCG, which initially was very reluctantly used or accepted by Poole Hospital, but in the best interest of the whole population of the area, it was finally acknowledged that the proposals were really the only way forward to maintain first class services for the whole of the population of the area.
The vote of no confidence has nothing to do with the death – of the very unfortunate death – of cancer, of Colin Bungay. It has to do with the two very real concerns of all of my group and of certain other members of the Council. And the final comment from Councillor Brooke saying this proposal is only to power grab and gain control for self interest, one could say that the opposition to that, the refusal to that from the Unity Alliance is also an initiative to retain power and maintain their self-interest
(4) Vikki Slade’s Online Q&A, the Day After
The morning after the night before! Many are really pleased with the result of last night’s leadership challenge, and well done to her for still doing today’s Wednesday live session. Click here to go straight to the video. Very interesting.