Eden Council “no confidence” vote fails

Date: Friday 25th September 2020

EDEN councillors have rejected a motion of no confidence in authority leader Virginia Taylor which was proposed by the leader of the opposition Conservative group.

At a full meeting of the council held online on Thursday, 20 members voted against the motion and 16 for, almost entirely along party political lines.

No members supporting the ruling group, made up of Liberal Democrat, Labour, Green and some independent councillors, backed the no confidence proposal, which was put forward by Conservative group leader Debra Wicks (Greystoke).

Using a PowerPoint presentation, Ms Wicks said she had put forward the motion because of Ms Taylor’s handling of the appointment of a temporary successor to council chief executive Rose Rouse, who announced she was to leave the post towards the end of August.

Ms Wicks alleged there had been private negotiations, incurring legal advice costs, between Ms Taylor and the departing chief executive, and said the matter should have been brought to the attention of party group leaders and the council’s human resources and appeals committee at a much earlier date than was the case.

According to Ms Wicks, Ms Taylor had acted beyond her powers and without regard to the legal consequences of her actions or the council’s due processes.

The issue had been decided without reference to council members who should have been involved, she said, and called for the return of what she described as a “strong, member-led council”.

She was also critical of discussions between Ms Taylor and the leadership of Carlisle City Council over the possibility of the two authorities sharing a chief executive, at least on a temporary basis.

These allegations were rejected by Ms Taylor (Lib Dem, Penrith), who said all group leaders had been informed of the situation at an early stage, and that Ms Wicks had raised no objections to this at the time.

She pointed out that she had been obliged to act quickly, because the council had no head of paid service following the departure of Rose Rouse, which it was legally obliged to do.

She also said it was accepted that the Eden council leader had to have “informal talks” with counterparts on other authorities to explore possibilities, with previous holders of her position having done exactly the same type of thing in previous years.

Following the vote on the motion, councillors agreed to approve an amendment to the authority’s constitution to allow for the appointment of a deputy head of paid service, in order to prevent a similar situation arising in the future.

They also backed the appointment of council officer Les Clark as the acting head of paid service, pending the appointment of a new permanent chief executive.