'Unprecedented move' sees all Conservatives on Newmarket Town Council committees
PUBLISHED: 17:00 10 May 2019
Non-Tory members on Newmarket Town Council have said they are "appalled" they have been blocked from standing on its decision-making committees.
Following last Thursday's election, the town council is now made up of nine Conservative, three Labour and six West Suffolk Independents councillors.
But at the first meeting of Newmarket Town Council on Tuesday night, Mayor Rachel Hood used her casting vote so just the nine Conservatives were elected to the committees.
Newly-elected Labour councillor Ollie Bowen, who represents the Studlands ward, said it was an "unprecedented move".
He posted on a Newmarket residents' forum on Facebook: "Whilst we in Labour, as well as the Independents, represent the interests of many residents in Newmarket who are sick of the status-quo given to us by the Conservatives, there will be none of that representation on any committees whatsoever.
"We protested this for the above reasons, but to no avail. As a new councillor, I'm appalled, as others were.
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"Most of us want to work across party lines, with anyone who genuinely cares about the people of this community, but it looks like doing that is going to be an uphill struggle with the Conservatives barring anyone but their counncillors from working in committees."
Councillor Andy Drummond, chairman of the Newmarket branch of the West Suffolk Conservative Association, said Newmarket Town Council is, effectively, a large parish council, and under current legislation it does not have to form its committees within political balance.
He said: "Historically standing orders allowed any member to put themselves forward, and chairs and vice-chairs were elected by the committee.
"However, a couple of years ago it was recognised that this was an unsatisfactory situation to be in, so councillors, collectively, voted to amend the standing orders to allow councillors to do exactly what we did last night [May 7]. This was ratified by the full council of the time.
"It means so long as the committees stay within their terms of reference the Conservatives will be able to ensure that the council remains functional and productive.
"I think this will be very popular with my Conservative supporters. Clearly not popular with non-Conservatives, but it does avoid a stifling deadlock."
He added larger councils such as districts do have to form their committees in political balance.
"As chairman of the finance and policy committee this is something that I'm willing to consider going forward - but it would involve changing the standing orders to facilitate that," he said.