Waveney: Deadlock at district council is set to be broken

CONSERVATIVES look set to cling on to power at Waveney District Council – but only just – after legal advice was issued.

The authority was in stalemate following the district elections earlier this month, with both the Tories and Labour tied on 23 seats.

Both parties have courted the two remaining councillors, Independent councillor Peter Collecott and Green member Graham Elliott, to gain a majority.

But with Mr Collecott saying he would side with the Tories and Mr Elliott suggesting his policies were more in line with Labour, that deadlock appears unlikely to be broken.

Next week, members will meet to choose a new council leader and chairman – a position set to take on crucial importance as the chairman will have a casting vote.

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Now, the council’s monitoring officer Arthur Chavonia has issued legal advice on the way forward.

He said the outgoing chairman, Conservative Alan Duce, would have the casting vote on the new chairman.

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That would mean, if all councillors are present at meetings and vote along party lines, the new chairman – set to be a Conservative – will get the casting vote.

Mark Bee, who is stepping down as Conservative leader as he takes over the leadership of the county council, said: “Last week I offered the two opposing parties round a table for the chance to break this impasse.

“The council clearly cannot be in limbo so we have to go to legislation.

“According to the monitoring officer the past chair clearly has the casting vote. If he declined, his vice-chair would assume that position.”

But Julian Swainson, leader of the Labour group, said the broadest electorate support had been shown for his party, supported by the Greens.

“We want to create a stable council and do what we can to reflect the broadest level of support in the Waveney electorate,” he said.

“The council could end up with a party that lost the election – 65% of votes were cast against them. They are looking to stay in office on a technicality, which would be regrettable and would not take into account the clear wishes of the electorate.

“What happens depends on who turns up to the meeting or whether the outgoing chair wants the responsibility of that decision.

“We will be very unimpressed, particularly as Mark Bee and his colleagues campaigned against AV but clearly didn’t get first place.”

The Tories will be electing a new group leader tomorrow.

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