Council 'more open' than under Tories, says new leader

PUBLISHED: 15:52 03 October 2019

Weston Town Hall. Picture: Mark Atherton

Weston Town Hall. Picture: Mark Atherton

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The new executive running North Somerset Council believe it is 'rude' for its leader to solely decide how the authority is run.

Cllr Don Davies.Cllr Don Davies.

Former council leader Nigel Ashton said last month 'naïve' new members were elected in May, at the expense of Conservative colleagues.

But the new administration has responded saying there is a greater collective responsibility, compared with his time as leader .

Council leader Donald Davies, an Independent, said: "If there's a disagreement about how to do something we talk it over and come to an agreed way forward.

"If you think of the disparate nature of our partnership, if we can't agree on a proposal it's likely the wider area won't support it.

"To say the leader should decide is an incredibly rude thing to do."

The Conservatives stranglehold was lost in May, with a 'rainbow coalition' of Independents, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Green Party councillors occupying the top jobs.

Cllr Ashton feels it is the 'worst of all worlds'.

But Cllr Davies said: "The system wasn't the problem - it was how it was run.

"It's now incumbent on all councillors to be contributors. Policy should be led as much by councillors as the executive.

"That's been virtually impossible until now. It was always stymied by the executive members. We need to be more open."

Liberal Democrat councillor Ash Cartman, the executive member for finance, said: "Cllr Ashton was a lone thinker. He got a reputation as someone who could sit in a room and work something out.

"We've sat down with the chief executive to brainstorm what we want to do, and that's gone back to our individual political groups.

"It may take a bit longer than one person in a room but it's been really positive.

Cllr Ashton's claim about 'naïve' councillors was based on his opinion new members want to spend money which does not exist.

Cllr Cartman said the executive is under no illusions.

He said: "We didn't realise the piggy bank owed a lot of money - there's a hole in the bottom of it.

"We're trying to get a plan in place for four years rather than working hand to mouth.

"We don't know how much money is going to be distributed by Government. We're not saying the money isn't welcome, but it's not plugging the gap.

"We're looking for sources of extra income and trying to do things more efficiently, while trying to protect frontline services."

He said a four-year corporate plan will be released in the autumn.

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