Torbay Mayor expelled from Tory group but won’t resign

Owl says: “Massive changes on the horizon … LEP …” – seems there are a lot of things we are not being told about … and Mayor Oliver is obviously making his own post-2019 plans … wonder if his plans coincide with other people’s plans …

“I was elected by 20,000 voters not 20 councillors” is Torbay Mayor Gordon Oliver’s response to calls from his Tory colleagues to step down.

Though he has also been expelled from the Tory group on the council on Monday night and the resign call is going to the next full council meeting, the Tory veteran says there is too important work to be done before the next election in 2019 for him to resign.

With the council facing a black hole in its budget, the increasing pressures on adults and children’s services, and uncertainty over future Government funding and the prospect of increased partnership working with neighbouring authorities – particularly on major services like adults and children’s – Mayor Oliver says he intends to stay on until the next election.

The Tory group said in a statement after its meeting: “The Conservative Group on Torbay Council voted by a majority of over two thirds to expel the mayor from the group.

“A motion bringing forward a vote of no confidence in the elected mayor (endorsed by a majority of the Conservative Group) has already been submitted and will be brought to council for debate on July 20.

“It is regrettable that the group has seen the need to take this action, however it is their strong belief that the mayor has failed to carry out fully his duties in serving the best interests of the people of Torbay.

“The motion is very detailed, running to four pages, and will be is available on the council website when the agenda for the council meeting is published.”

Mayor Oliver said he would listen to the debate on the motion at full council but said: “At the moment I am just sitting and smiling and have no additional things to say about the motion.

“I was elected by 20,000 people not 20 councillors. I will listen to the members of the group and what they have to say. But my responsibility is to the people who supported my election.”

In response to the referendum last year which said the majority wanted a cabinet and leader system in the council, Mayor Oliver said : “By statute, the mayoral system finishes in April 2019. I’m not going anywhere.

“From now on you will see gradual change which is inevitable from a unitary council working on its own to something different. The budgetary pressures will decide how local government will be run in Torbay in future.

“While the mayoral system remains, until the next council election 2019, the structure will remain the same but there will be discussions this autumn as to how the changes will take place beyond that. The council will decide its future in discussion with its immediate neighbours and the wishes of our MPs.”

The major services would be run in partnership, such as children’s, adults and waste. Some changes could be made fairly swiftly he said.

A consultant’s report on possible changes should be published in September.

“Things will not be the same as they are now,” he said. “We have to see this as a challenge, and like all challenges there are benefits which flow from it. I see a dramatic change to create long term financial and political stability beyond 2019.”

At the same time progress is being made on the devolution of power to Devon and Somerset and the 17 districts, he said.

He said essentially Torbay was too small to succeed as a unitary. “It needs long term partnerships and arrangements. There have been various small scale agreements on services already with Teignbridge and Devon we are looking at some with Plymouth at the moment which have been beneficial to us all. But they are mainly backroom functions. These are massive changes on the horizon and we need to keep stability in the next two years and it’s important Government sees us being stable because of the huge responsibilities we have for example for the care of children and adult health.”