Cherwell retains Conservative leadership as stalemate ends
Leader Barry Wood: “Hopefully we’ll be able to work together and make some real good progress”
The Conservatives are once again overseeing Cherwell District Council. At Tuesday evening’s reconvened Annual Meeting long serving Tory leader Barry Wood was re-elected to lead the Council, after attempts by other groups to form an alliance failed.
Last week Councillor Wood’s nominations to lead the Council were voted down by Labour and the Oxfordshire Progressive Group (Liberal Democrats, Greens and an Independent). However, at the start of Tuesday’s meeting the council’s Monitoring Officer explained voting would be conducted in a different way for the position following legal advice and a re-reading of the Council’s constitution.
The change meant nominations for leader would all be taken together with Councillors voting for their preferred leader. Councillor Wood was nominated alongside Labour’s Sean Woodcock, with the Conservative receiving 21 votes and the leader of the Labour group 11. 10 Councillors didn’t vote for either candidate.
Following his appointment Councillor Wood built his Executive – the group that will run the Council’s business – from his Conservative councillors, with finance chief Adam Nell also talking on the role of deputy leader.
At the conclusion of the meeting – less than an hour after it started – Councillors were appointed to the various Committees with the groups represented in proportion to the number of seats they held on the Council.
Councillor Wood knows the next year will be much more of a challenge than previous years when his Conservatives had a majority. He said: “It’s going to be a different year because a minority administration is a different beast to a majority one and so there will be a lot more challenge in it.
“As far as I’m concerned I have to live up to what I said, which was I want to build a collegiate and consensus council. If you don’t when you’ve got these numbers all you do is make a rod for your own back.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to work together and make some real good progress.”
Labour’s Sean Woodcock feels by abstaining in the vote it was the Liberal Democrats who let the Conservatives take control. He is now keen that his Labour group do what they can to deliver on their priorities from the Local Elections.
He said: “We had a clean sweep in Banbury and now have 12 of the 15 district councillors for the Banbury wards. We can be a very strong voice for Banbury residents and that will be our priority – delivering for the residents of Banbury, but also looking out for the rest of the district.
“When people vote Labour they know what they are voting for. It’s not always the case with the minor parties like the Liberal Democrats and Greens.”
Liberal Democrat David Hingley acknowledged the disappointment felt by the councillors in his Progressive Oxfordshire Group, having failed to create a viable coalition with Labour to take control at Cherwell.
He said: “We absolutely do not want a Conservative administration in place. That isn’t what we think the voters wanted. They also didn’t want a Labour minority administration – with only 12 councillors out of 48 they’re not able to provide the stability that the district needs. That’s why we kept on about wanting a stable majority alliance with them, which would have been a majority.
“So yes, indeed, lots of glum faces. We’re in a situation we don’t want.
“What it does mean is that the Progressive Oxfordshire group are now the opposition on the Council. We will use the office to hold the Conservative minority to account.”
Conservative Barry Wood is now keen for local people to understand the Council has moved on from the impasse of the last week. He said: “I would say to residents you have a stable Council now which will continue to deliver the services that you want and expect. You shouldn’t notice any change.”
But Liberal Democrat David Hingley believes Conservative control isn’t now a foregone conclusion throughout the next year. He sent a message from his Progressive Alliance Group to his Labour colleagues: “This minority administration survives from week to week. If their National Party were to drop their objections at any point over the coming weeks or months, then just get back in touch with us and we can give Cherwell that majority stability that it needs.”
Published: by Banbury FM Newsteam