The Battle for Waveney District Council

Alan Duce
In the May elections the Conservatives lost overall control of Waveney District Council loosing some four seats. Labour gained 8 seats leaving the balance as Con and Lab each with 23 seats and 1 Independent and 1 Green. Since the election there have been as you might imagine some negotiations between outgoing Conservative Leader Mark Bee, the newly elected Labour Leader Julian Swainson and the Green and Independent.

The end result of the negotiations is another deadlock as the Green has perhaps unsuprisingly sided with Labour and the Independent with the Tories. So there is a tie 24 to 24.

The first business of the Council at its annual meeting on 25th May is to elect a Chairman. Now normally the Chairman of a District Council is a ceremonial figure, opening fetes etc and wearing a chain of office but like most chairmen they also get a second or "casting" vote in the event of a tie.

So the "Monitoring Officer" of the Council (who is a lawyer) has had to go away and look at the Council's Constitution and the Law and work out wht should happen to elet the Chairman who in turn will have a casting vote for the election of Leader of the Council.

He has published his opinion here and basically the outgoing Chairman Alan Duce is allowed to come back and Chair the meeting even though he is no longer a councillor. He does not get a vote unless there is (as is expected) a tie and then he must use his casting vote to elect a new Chairman. The new Chairman can then use his casting vote to elect a new Leader if (as expected) there is another tie.

Now the outgoing Chairman of Waveney is a Tory and despite the fact that between Labour and the Greens they got 49% of the Vote against the 40% that Independents and Tories got it looks like the Tories will retain a slim control of the Council on the Chairman's casting vote. Probaby legal but is it fair? It also seems strange the Council has an even number of seats (48) seems to be almost asking for this kind of unsatisfactory mess to happen!
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