One seat majority in an alliance
The new leader of East Devon District Council has been elected – at the second attempt.
Cllr Paul Arnott, an independent councillor for Coly Valley, who leads the Democratic Alliance - made up of Greens, Lib Dems and independents in a group called the East Devon Alliance - was voted into the role on Friday morning, following the resignation last week of the previous leader of the council, Cllr Ben Ingham.
The extraordinary full council meeting began on Thursday night but was adjourned towards the end of the initial vote to elect a new leader when the live stream of the meeting was removed from YouTube for violating its terms of service. This happened moments after one councillor was heard swearing in the background having not muted their microphone.
Cllr Arnott was voted in by 32 votes to 20, with eight abstentions, defeating Cllr Andrew Moulding, leader of the Conservatives. Cllr Ingham, a former Conservative who'd become an independent, voted for Cllr Moulding.
The 60-strong council is now being run by 31 councillors from both the Democratic Alliance and the Independent Progressive Group (IPG).
The Democratic Alliance consists of the East Devon Alliance, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, and three independents, while the IPG consists of seven independents.
New leader Cllr Arnott said: “In May 2019 the East Devon electorate sent a clear message to the council that after nearly five decades of Conservative dominance they wanted change. People voted to reduce what had been 45 Conservative councillors five years earlier to just 19.
“Despite the huge defeat, the new leadership went for a business as usual approach, and last month, this approach collapsed after the Conservatives pushed for a vote of no confidence in the leader and his own group split down the middle.
“The Democratic Alliance and the Independent Progressive Group now have a majority on the council and it gives it the stability it has lacked since Cllr Ingham attempted a council of no overall control.
“It is essential that at this of all times, East Devon has a stable majority leadership. It must also have a keen eye on the district’s future wellbeing when this troubling period comes to an end. The electorate spoke and hoped for a reformed and improved council last year and our aim is to deliver that now with hard work and pride in the wonderful place that we are fortunate to call home.
“We wish to work with everyone for the benefit of East Devon, but if your interest is working [with] friends and allies outside the council then I’m afraid that your time is up.”
Cllr Arnott announced that three new roles would be created, with the corporate resources portfolio also looking at the recovery from covid-19, a new climate change portfolio and a democracy and transparency portfolio. Five assistant cabinet roles will also be created.
Nominating him, Liberal Democrat Cllr Eileen Wragg, said: “Paul is an excellent leader, a very good listener and is respectful of everyone on the council. He will fully consult with everyone on his cabinet and I fully support his nomination as leader. He will lead the council into a better place than it has been for the last year.” Cllr Wragg becomes deputy leader of East Devon District Council.
The new cabinet is:
Cllr Paul Arnott – Leader of the council
Cllr Eileen Wragg – Deputy leader of the council
Cllr Jess Bailey – Corporate Resources and covid recovery
Cllr Megan Armstrong- Sustainable homes and communities
Cllr Geoff Jung – Coast, countryside and environment
Cllr Marianne Rixson – Climate change
Cllr Dan Ledger – Strategic planning
Cllr Jack Rowland – Finance
Cllr Paul Hayward – Economy and assets
Cllr Paul Millar – Democracy and transparency