Tuesday 25th February 2020,
North Yorks Enquirer

‘No Confidence’ – Who’s Next?

‘No Confidence’ – Who’s Next?

  • an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, examining the prospects for the No Confidence motion and (of course) the consequences.

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As I predicted last weekend, we have not had long to wait for a Vote of No Confidence to be moved against SBC Leader Councillor Steve SIDDONS [Lab.].

The Scarborough News has reported – misleadingly – that three Independents and two Conservatives have lodged a requisition calling for an Extraordinary Meeting of Full Council to consider the following motion:

  • “In recognition of the discontent amongst members in regard to the Leader’s many departures from the vision he set forth upon his assumption of the Leadership, this Council has NO CONFIDENCE in the Leader”.

In fact, the Requisition was signed by members of three entirely separate Groups:

The SN reporter would appear to be unaware of the important distinction between the three-strong Cluster of Independent Members and the ten-strong Independent Group. (There are also two unaffiliated independents  – Councillors ATKINSON and DONOHUE-MONCRIEFF).

So in fact, the Requisition carries the support of three of the four main groupings – the Labour Group being the sole exception.

The SN goes on to characterise the following statement from Leader SIDDONS as a “response” to the motion:

“Today was a big day as we launched an important plan for the future of our towns. 

Our Building A Better Borough Strategy is designed to create a better quality of life for residents and businesses alike. It is a pity that a handful of councillors have moved a motion to stop this progress. 

This Strategy is part of our drive to turn around the fortunes of the Borough through local economic growth, doing the basics better and providing high quality social housing for people to rent. 

The project will also involve giving residents and businesses and Councillors the opportunity to have their say and play their part in driving this Borough forwards into the next decade. 

As part of that Strategy today we gave greater detail on the bid for the Town Deal. This is the first of a series of projects and more will be announced over the coming days.

The Town Deal, which will bring huge benefits to Scarborough and Whitby up to the tune of £50m could be life changing in terms of investment and employment prospects. And we have not forgotten Filey and will create a Town Investment Plan for that town with our own Area Action Plan.”

Quite how a typically woolly promise of ‘jam tomorrow’, dependent on a yet-to-be-held consultation on an unspecified “local economic growth” strategy – the details of which have yet to be announced – constitutes anything even remotely approaching a “response” to a three-Group expression of discontent supported, be it noted, by the Independent Group Leader (SIDDONS’ hitherto alliance partner) escapes all comprehension.

The suggestion made by Councillor SIDDONS that only “a handful” of dissenters stand behind the motion is pitiful. If Councillor SIDDONS imagines that the five signatories have acted without reference to the rest of their respective Groups, he must believe that the other Group Leaders keep their members in the dark, too.

Regarding the No Confidence vote, the arithmetic is so straightforward that even Finance Portfolio Holder Councillor Janet JEFFERSON should readily grasp the obvious. Even if the Labour Group were to support Councillor SIDDONS without exception, 13 votes out of a possible 46 leaves the Leader needing 11 more to reach the magic number of 24 (the minimum majority) to save his skin, and these must come from amongst the 33 non-Labour Councillors.

One must anticipate that, in addition to the 5 signatories of the Requisition, a further 13 Conservatives will support Councillors PHILLIPS and ABBOTT in the No Confidence motion. That takes care of 18 of the 33 non-Labour Councillors, leaving Councillor SIDDONS needing 11 of the remaining 15.

Even if we speculate that the 2 Greens, 1 UKIP and 2 unaffiliated independents all support the present Leader (and it is hard to picture Councillor Neil HERITAGE [UKIP] or Councillor Michelle DONOHUE-MONCRIEFF [Unaff.Ind.] going down that route), one must also anticipate that, in addition to the 5 signatories of the Requisition, a further 8 Independents will support Councillors CROSS and CASEY in the No Confidence motion. That takes care 8 of the remaining 15, leaving only 7 – but Councillor SIDDONS, remember, needs a bare minimum of 11 of the remaining 15.

Of course, Councillor JEFFERSON may imagine that ditching the Independents and throwing her vote behind the Leader might save her own Portfolio. But, in fact, even that would spell ARRIVERDECCI Councillor SIDDONS.

Might there be some Independent ‘rebels’? Probably not. Maybe one . . .

Might there be some Conservative ‘rebels’? Probably not. Maybe one . . .

At best (or worst), Councillor SIDDONS could be looking at a 28-to-18 or 26-to-20 a defeat. He had his chance and he blew it. And it is a bad time to have blown it because, in the present political climate, Labour may prove unelectable for a decade or more. Contrary to his claims of inclusivity, the Leader has managed to alienate more than half of the Council and it is unlikely that his ‘jam tomorrow’ appeal will win them over. It could have worked out better but for the present Leader’s many absences and his ‘in a bubble’ style of leadership.

There is, of course, an honourable option: Councillor SIDDONS could accept the inevitable and take his leave of the Council immediately, thus pre-empting the No Confidence motion and sparing the public purse the considerable cost of staging a foregone conclusion.

There is, of course, also a dishonourable option (which cannot be ruled out): Councillor SIDDONS may attempt to collude with Officers to stage an Extraordinary Meeting to consider the No Confidence vote between Christmas and New Year – when many members may be unable to attend due to prior family commitments. That could play havoc with the simple arithmetic set out above. Who knows who (and how many, and on whose side) may miss the vote – conveniently or otherwise?

And after the vote?

I hope readers will join me in wishing that the Requisition proceeds fairly and lawfully, so that 2020 may begin on a sound footing, under a new Leader.

On that subject, I hope to be able to publish a full analysis of the runners and riders in the very near future. Before that analysis appears, however, those who are interested may wish to consider the following question:

  • What are the qualities necessary to the rôle of Leader of Scarborough Borough Council?

Here, in no particular order, are just a few of the suggestions made to me in recent conversations:

  • Experience
  • Humility
  • Knowledge
  • Diplomacy
  • Openness
  • Eloquence
  • Vision
  • Composure
  • Selflessness
  • Impartiality
  • Insight
  • Honesty

It is a very demanding position, for a mere £16,818.24 per annum. Who would want it?

Not I!

So I would add this one further, absolutely vital requisite to that list:

  • Appetite

Who has it? And who ticks most of the boxes?

Let the games begin.

And may the best candidate win.

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