SBC: What Next?
- an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, sharing some opinions on the results of the 2019 Scarborough Borough Council elections.
If power, as is claimed, corrupts, then it must surely be the case that it finds its easiest prey amongst those of weak character who surround themselves with sycophants and mediocrities.
Now that the 2015-19 incarnation of Scarborough Borough Council has ground to a halt, it is appropriate to attempt a brief retrospective of what will be remembered as ‘The BASTIMAN Years’ – four years that began poorly and proceeded to slump from one humiliating catastrophe to another, concluding in last Thursday’s electoral rout. (For a broad comparison of the 2019 results with those of 2015, please see the pie-charts at the foot of this article).
Leader Councillor Derek BASTIMAN [Con.] has been swift to blame his Party and its national government for the manifest collapse of public confidence in him and his tottering regime. His personal vote fell from a massive 1,305 votes in 2015 to just 495 this time – a drop of 810. That is the number of his own electors who have had enough of him.
His brief interview on Yorkshire Coast Radio reveals a man both bitter and resentful of the verdict of the electorate – a verdict well illustrated by the desertion of his core Tory supporters in his own ultra-safe Scalby ward – from 33% of the vote right down to 24%.
Clearly, he holds the decisions of the electorate in very low esteem. Like ousted colleague Councillor Andrew JENKISON, he seems to think that we electors are “thick”.
But we electors, ultimately, are the only ones whose opinions actually count – at least on election day.
The electorate has summarily rejected three of his central Cabinet Portfolio Holders:
- Martin SMITH (Tourism) (Northstead), arguably the poorest Mayor/Chair in living memory (with the possible exception of the pompobulous Simon GREEN);
- Sandra TURNER (Communities) (Whitby Streonshalh), who I regard as the ‘collateral damage’ of a strong local swing to Labour on the back of diligent and engaging ward case-work by retiring Councillor Rob BARNETT [Lab.];
- John NOCK (Legal & Governance) (Whitby West Cliff), ‘hebephile’ JACONELLI apologist (to use his own wordsmith’s phrase).
These three were all peremptorily dismissed – especially the first and last, whose vote tally was, as Portfolio Holders, nothing short of a total rejection.
Predictably less than gracious in defeat, Councillor BASTIMAN’s has since, in an interview for Yorkshire Coast Radio, passed a disgraceful slur on the electorate’s choice to replace his three defeated Portfolio Holders: “unfit to fill their shoes”.
Nobody respects a poor loser.
Now to Councillor BASTIMAN’s closest ally, Councillor Helen MALLORY [Con.], Portfolio Holder for Corporate Investment (and Deputy Leader), who was reportedly aghast to learn that she had been resoundingly trounced, going from a commanding 35% share of the poll in 2015 to a measly 20% now. It should be noted that her victor, Councillor Roxanne MURPHY [Ind.], retained all of her 27% share of the vote form one election to the next.
It was simply a case of Councillor MALLORY losing two-thirds of her support. That is an exodus.
In Filey ward, Major Projects Portfolio Holder Councillor Mike COCKERILL [Ind.Ind.] just about held onto his seat – despite polling 700 votes fewer than in 2015.
In Derwent Valley & Moor ward [*boundary change – formerly the Tory stronghold of Derwent Valley], Portfolio Holder for Transformation Councillor Heather PHILLIPS [Con.] was elected in second place with 290 votes fewer than in 2015.
In Woodlands ward, Housing & Public Health Portfolio Holder Councillor Bill CHATT [Ind.Ind.] was the only Cabinet Member to increase his number of votes (from 554 in 2015, up to 690 now – an increase of 136), a reflection of his exemplary ward work.
It is absolutely fair to comment that the Scarborough Borough electorate, with a well-above-expectations turnout of 34.51% (on polling day morning, several Councillors told the Enquirer that they would be surprised if 20% was exceeded), has comprehensively handed down its own Vote of No Confidence on the Leader and his Cabinet (with the sole exception of Councillor CHATT) – whatever the ‘official’ outcome of that ‘massaged’ result in the Chamber.
It is a truism that all political careers end in failure. Few failures, in the Borough of Scarborough, have been so cataclysmic as those of Derek BASTIMAN who, with his innate political insensitivity, has yet to fully realise it.
There is an opportunity now, with the new distribution of political allegiances, to form a so-called ‘Rainbow’ Cabinet, upon which members are appointed according to merit; according to experience and expertise; according to integrity, transparency and accountability – not as a sop to sweeten allegiances with double Allowances.
Such a Cabinet may wish to begin the process of scrapping the ‘Strong’ Leader/Cabinet model (foisted upon us by outgoing CEO ‘Silent’ Jim DILLON to concentrate the power of then-Leader Councillor Tom FOX [Con.]) and returning as swiftly as possible to a Council with Committees and Scrutiny Panels.
The process could begin tomorrow:
[Page 4 offers a succinct overview]
But first . . .
In my view, the 16-strong Conservative Group will not be able to achieve the necessary overall majority (24 out of 46) to assume full control of the Council. Even with the likely support of the ‘independent’ Independents (Cllrs CHATT, COCKERILL and (probably) newly-elected former-Councillor Peter POPPLE – perhaps even one or two more?) the Tories MUST surely come up short.
The Labour Group, as in 2015, starts the new term with 13 Councillors under the Leadership of Councillor Steve SIDDONS. That total of 13 seems secure – but they would then need to ally with at least 11 ‘others’ to achieve the critical 24 for overall control.
In short, both the Conservative and Labour Groups would need the support of Councillor Sam CROSS [Ind.] and his Independent Group – 14 ‘independents’ have been elected, but, as mentioned above, 3 (or 4, or even 5?) may well go with the ‘independent’ Independents. This would whittle it down to 11 – or 10 – or even just 9?). But 11 would do the trick.
Historically, Labour has been reluctant to enter into alliances – particular with the Tories, and perhaps no less so with Independents who were elected in 2015 under the UKIP banner.
Historically, Labour and the Greens (2 elected now, as in 2015) have enjoyed a reasonable commonality of ideology. It would be a huge surprise if the Greens stiff-armed Labour now, though they may be reluctant to row in with those ex-Kippers.
But, worst case scenario, the 16 Tories plus the 5? (or 4, or 3?) ‘independent’ Independents, even with the (unlikely) co-operation of the 2 Greens, can NO WAY get beyond 23. ‘Even Steven’. Amongst the many newly-elected Councillors, one wild card stands out – Councillor Neil HERITAGE [UKIP] (Newby). I expect DB is schmoozing him, as I write. He may even be the ‘golden key’.
The 13-strong Labour, on the other hand, with the help of even just 9 Independents (and there could be 10 or 11) needs only the 2 Greens to achieve the critical 24.
And I wonder if those two Greens know what they are sitting on?
In short; it could be tight.
My money is on a Labour /Independent/Green coalition with (most probably) Councillor Steve SIDDONS acceding to the Leader’s role, with Councillor Sam CROSS (or Councillor Janet JEFFERSON) as Deputy Leader.
The Mayoralty may be tossed to . . . how about Councillor Mike COCKERILL [Ind.Ind.] – just for laughs?
The Good News
In my view, one thing is for certain: the party is over for Councillor Derek BASTIMAN. He must clear his desk; he should resign his seat. He has presided over too many mistakes (need I name them?) and it is time to give the Borough – our Borough – a chance to heal. With a new Chief Exec soon to take office, all we need now is some honest, competent and transparent Officers.
But . . .
I could be completely wrong.
However, I have been approached by some of the losers. They, too, have stories to tell.
Private Eye articles exposing and lampooning Scarborough Borough Council during ‘The BASTIMAN Years’: