Hadleigh: Council defends member’s exclusion from committee

Babergh District Council

Babergh District Council

A DISTRICT council has defended rules in its constitution that led to a councillor losing his seat on the planning committee after 22 years of service because he refused to join a group.

Fellow members voted against allowing North Cosford ward councillor Clive Arthey to remain on the planning committee as an “ungrouped” member.

But last night Babergh’s strategic director Andrew Hunkin said new governance arrangements had been adopted to allow more “streamlined” decision making. Ensuring that council members worked in political groups was recognised as an “important part” of the decision making structure.

He said: “Last December, the two councils (Babergh and Mid Suffolk) commissioned a joint review of their constitutions and it was agreed that the first element of that review would be to consider the committee structure of both councils.

“A constitutional review group was established to formulate proposals based on a set of principles that took into account the current financial and policy landscape.

“Babergh has always been and will continue to strive to be a very inclusive council. But in these times of austerity and joint working, it must be in a position where it can provide a clear steer through the political groups and make well-informed timely decisions.”

Last week, Richard Kemp, who belongs to the ‘independents’ group stepped aside to enable Mr Arthey to have a seat on the strategy committee. He said: “I surrendered my seat because the idea was to exclude Mr Arthey from any committee and I feel strongly he should a representative role on a Babergh committee.”

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Mr Arthey – who is Babergh’s member champion for waste and recycling – said he hoped the new position would strengthen his role in the hugely successful Suffolk Waste Partnership, which he chaired last year.

He told the EADT: “Political groups are entitled to seats and they decide between them who is going to take each on. Richard Kemp offered to give up his seat on strategy and the independents appointed me into the position.

“In the coming months, the core strategy planning decision will be coming back so I will still be involved in a bit of planning on strategy committee. I have reported to strategy before as member for recycling so it also ties in with my role in the Suffolk Waste Partnership.”

But deputy leader of the council’s Conservative group, Simon Barrett, still believes Mr Arthey could have joined the non-political group of nine independent councillors if he had wanted to retain his place on the planning committee without aligning himself with politics.

He said: “People are better briefed and have a better understanding of what’s going on if they are in a group, and at the end of the day the rules are if you want a seat on a committee, you have to be part of a group.

“That is because it takes a lot of time for an officer to discuss issues with an individual rather than a group, so having one person out on a limb doesn’t make sense.

“Clive could have easily joined the independent group and retained his non-political stance without it affecting how he represents his constituents. No-one is asking him to change the way he thinks but the bottom line is we are trying to save money by speeding up processes and making everything more streamlined.”