Council meeting to elect leader ends abruptly as councillor is heard swearing

Conservative Cllr Tom Wright, one time Chief Superintendent, is named as the councillor whose swearing is thought to have been the one caught swearing during the meeting.

It has now been confirmed that Cllr Arnott has been elected as the leader of the council, with his appointment set to be ratified at the resumed meeting at 11am on Friday.

Daniel Clark 

East Devon District Council remains leaderless after the meeting to elect a new leader was adjourned due to ‘technical difficulties’.

Cllr Paul Arnott, leader of the East Devon Alliance, was on the verge of being elected as the council’s new leader when the live stream of the meeting, which was being broadcast on Youtube, abruptly crashed.

A message appeared on the screen saying that the video had been removed for violating Youtube’s terms of service.

It came moments after one of the councillors – believed to have been Cllr Tom Wright – was caught swearing on his microphone while the vote to elect the new leader was ongoing. It is unknown as to whether that was the reason why the video was removed from Youtube.

Councillors had been voting as to whether they wanted Cllr Arnott or Cllr Andrew Moulding, leader of the Conservative group, to become the new leader of the council following the resignation of Cllr Ben Ingham from the position last Monday.

With 57 of the 60 cast, Cllr Arnott had received 31 votes, with 18 for Cllr Moulding and eight abstentions. Three councillors had yet to vote when the stream crashed.

Cllr Ingham, the former leader of the council, had cast his vote in favour of Cllr Moulding, while the eight other members of the Independent group who were previously in charge of the council who had the chance to vote had abstained.

The item on the agenda – which was to elect a new Leader for the remainder of the civic year and that Council receive the Leader’s appointments of the Deputy Leader and the Cabinet and their Portfolios – had not been completed by the time that the technical difficulties struck.

An East Devon District Council spokesman said: “Unfortunately the Extraordinary meeting of council has been adjourned due to technical difficulties. We will keep you informed as to when it can be resumed which will be at the earliest opportunity.”

They added that they were unsure as to whether the meeting would be resumed later this evening or at a later date, but at the start of the meeting, Cllr Stuart Hughes, chairman of the council, said that in the event of a break in connection for which they were unable to reconnect within 15 minutes, the meeting will be adjourned and reconvened at a later date.

It has now been confirmed that Cllr Arnott has been elected as the leader of the council, with his appointment set to be ratified at the resumed meeting at 11am on Friday.

It was the second of two extraordinary meetings held on Thursday night by the council, with the first seeing councillors vote by 37 votes to 22 to hold an Extraordinary General Meeting on June 8 at 6pm to elect the positions of Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Council.

Cllr Stuart Hughes, the chairman of the council, said that initially he had agreed that there would be a full council meeting on June 18 to deal with the matters that would have been discussed at the annual meeting and that it would be up to the members of the council as to if they wished to hold a meeting to hold the meeting for the chairmanship and the leadership of the council.

He said: “I am still of the view that the membership should decide if they want to elect a new chairman and that is what this meeting is about.”

Cllr Dean Barrow spoke against the need for the EGM to be held, saying that the pandemic had a significant impact on the council and that an experienced chairman to lead is needed, while Cllr Moulding added: “Residents would expect the council to be focusing on the response to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Cllr Alan Dent added: “It is vital that we have stable leadership and in Cllr Hughes we have someone with the experience and the link with County Hall. To replace him would jeopardise the recovery process and demean the work he has done. To change in the middle of the crisis could be a monumental mistake. This is not the time to hold an EGM.”

But Cllr John Loudoun said that ‘democracy must continue regardless’.

He added: “We normally have annual elections and we should be continuing with that,” and Cllr Eileen Wragg added that with Cllr Hughes having a lot on his plate with his cabinet role on Devon County Council, ‘maybe it is time for someone else to have a go’.


One thought on “Council meeting to elect leader ends abruptly as councillor is heard swearing

  1. Despite there still being votes to be cast, Paul Arnott alrfeady has a majority of votes and EDDC has announced that he is now the Council Leader.

    And about time too that EDDC Council was led by an adult, by someone with integrity and a moral compass, and by someone who will rid the Council of its long standing (over several decades) reputation for corruption. With the help of the other genuinely independent councillors – with special mention for Cathy Gardner, Susie Bond, Paul Hayward, Val Ranger and Marianne Rixson all of whom have worked tirelessly in our interests for several years – I am sure we are going to see big improvements in Democracy, Transparency, Accountability and indeed general behaviour and maturity from EDDC.

    As for ex-leader Ben Ingham, the contrast with Paul Arnott could not be greater (and I have known both of them well for several years and can speak from personal experience). Ben Ingham has harboured ambitions to be Council Leader for many years and would stop at nothing to get there, stabbing both individuals who worked with him and the electorate in the back in order to get there. Having persuaded the East Devon Alliance to help him win council seats, and then betrayed them when they started to question his motives, he knew that he would never have the support of EDA Councillors in becoming Leader, and instead did whatever it took to become Leader without them, including forming an alliance with the Tories to achieve it (despite his entire election being fought on the basis of ousting the Tories). Of course, those Councillors who helped him achieve this but didn’t know Ben that well and who believed his promises were bound to become disillusioned eventually, and that appears to be what happened.

    It seems to me that there are clear parallels between Ben Ingham’s ambitions to be Council Leader and Boris Johnson’s ambitions to be Prime Minister, the only difference being that at least Boris had a hero he hoped to emulate even if he didn’t have even the slightest quality of character needed to do so. Unfortunately Ben Ingham doesn’t even have that excuse.


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