Councillor removed from frontbench due to news column

Derek Davis, Independent councillor for Ganges ward

Derek Davis, Independent councillor for Ganges ward, has been removed from his frontbench role in Barbergh's coalition cabinet. - Credit: Babergh Council

A column penned by an anonymous commentator has been cited as part of the reason an Independent councillor has been removed from his frontbench role. 

Derek Davis, Independent councillor for Ganges ward, confirmed he has been asked by the cabinet to step down from his role as cabinet member for communities, which he has held since May 2019.

Cllr Davis edits the Nub News website for Shotley, Hadleigh and Felixstowe in his day job, and said a regular column on the Hadleigh website called Rowland Taylor’s Ghost had been raised to the leader of the councillor over "quite personal" criticism towards members. 

Cllr Davis said: “Cllr Ward accepts that I keep both my cabinet/councillor and my work roles very separate. To the extent, I have two phones and two laptops to ensure I keep wearing two different hats effectively.

“In my role as Nub News editor I have always protected my sources, and columnists, and have refused to reveal to Cllr Dawson and Cllr Ward, and indeed others who have asked, who RTG is. I will maintain that position.

“While I thank John for giving me the opportunity to serve Babergh residents on the two very different cabinets, it is a sad day that he has now allowed himself to be manipulated by his Conservative group.”

The leader of Babergh District Council’s coalition cabinet John Ward confirmed his removal on Tuesday. 

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Cllr Ward said: “My own personal view is that journalists have the freedom to publish, and that is something to be cherished. Events elsewhere in Europe have shown how valuable that is.

"But my group very much believe that journalism and cabinet membership are incompatible. The stuff published on Nub News includes contributors – myself included – but some of the stuff is quite personal towards some cabinet members. Derek has a duty to publish material that is submitted.

“I didn’t want to have to do that, I like him and get on well with him.”

As no party currently has an overall majority at Babergh District Council, the cabinet is made up of five Conservatives, four Independents and one Liberal Democrat as a coalition.

However, the council leader has the responsibility to appoint and remove cabinet members, and cabinet representation does not have to be politically balanced.

Cllr Davis had previously held the customer services cabinet role in the prior administration.

Cllr Ward however stressed that “no profession should be barred from being in a cabinet position”.

It is not yet clear if Cllr Davis’ position will be replaced with a different councillor – or from which party they may be from – or if the responsibilities of the communities portfolio will be shared with existing cabinet members.

The decision comes just six months after the last cabinet reshuffle.