A fresh rainbow cabinet has been unveiled at Babergh District Council with the Conservatives no longer on the front bench after a rift within the party.

Four Conservatives resigned from the group – including leader John Ward – to resurrect the Independent Conservatives group which existed prior to 2019.

The cabinet reshuffle was triggered after Independent Derek Davis was dismissed from the cabinet two weeks ago, which prompted the three other Independents – Clive Arthey, Alastair McCraw and Elisabeth Malvisi and the one Liberal Democrat, David Busby, to resign in protest. All five remained councillors.

That left five Conservatives on the front bench. The group planned to add members and form a minority administration, but disagreements within the party meant four members – leader John Ward, Jan Osborne, Adrian Osborne and Mary McLaren – opted to leave the group and reform the Independent Conservative group.

East Anglian Daily Times: Babergh District Council leader John WardBabergh District Council leader John Ward (Image: Archant/SARAH LUCY BROWN)

Council leader John Ward said: “We are a no overall control council and the clear message from the electorate is that they want us to work together.

“We mustn’t let personal differences and animosities get in the way of providing effective administration of the council and we must consider the morale of all councillors and our hard-working officers.

“The Independent Conservative group does have a history and five of its seven members from before 2019 are still members of the council – four Conservatives and one Independent.”

The Conservative group, which had been the largest party but not big enough to hold an outright majority, issued a statement which said: “John Ward, the Conservative leader, refused to follow the democratic process of the party – he wanted to impose his own choice of cabinet on the Conservative group. Trust in him had reached a low point. On Sunday PM a meeting of the group overturned his proposal.

“On Monday following the group vote he announced his resignation from the Conservatives and retained leadership of the council.”

The party confirmed it would now operate as an opposition group until the May 2023 election, adding that it would “continue to look after the interests of our electorate,” and “ensure that parking charges are not introduced by the new administration”.

It means the new cabinet will comprise members of the Independent Conservatives, Independent, Liberal Democrat and Green groups.

The new-look cabinet and their portfolios are as follows:

  • John Ward (Ind Con) – Leader, economic development
  • Clive Arthey (Ind) – Deputy leader, planning
  • Jan Osborne (Ind Con) – Housing
  • Mary McLaren (Ind Con) – Communities and wellbeing
  • Elisabeth Malvisi (Ind) – Environment
  • Alastair McCraw (Ind) – Customers, digital transformation and improvement
  • Dave Busby (Lib Dem) – Finance, assets and investments
  • Jane Gould (Green) – Climate change, biodiversity and sustainable transport