The new leader of East Devon District Council has been elected – at the second attempt – after the first livestreamed meeting ended abruptly shortly after a councillor was recorded swearing into his microphone.
Cllr Paul Arnott, leader of the Democratic Alliance, has now been voted into the top role on Friday morning, following the resignation last week of the previous leader of the council, Cllr Ben Ingham.
This article contains the list of the new cabinet.
The extraordinary full council meeting began on Thursday night but was adjourned midway through the initial vote to elect a new leader when the live stream of the meeting was removed from YouTube for violating its terms of service. This happened moments after one councillor was heard swearing in the background having not muted their microphone.
A message appeared on the screen saying that the video had been removed for violating Youtube’s terms of service. It happened 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.
At the second attempt Cllr Arnott was voted in by 32 votes to 20, with eight abstentions, over Cllr Andrew Moulding, leader of the Conservative Group, who had also been nominated as a potential leadership candidate. The previous leader of the council, Cllr Ingham, had voted for Cllr Moulding.
The 60-strong council is now being run by an administration of 31 councillors from both the Democratic Alliance and the Independent Progressive Group.
The Democratic Alliance consists of the East Devon Alliance, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, and three Independents, while the IPG consists of seven Independent councillors.
Speaking on Friday morning at the extraordinary council meeting, Cllr Arnott, the East Devon Alliance leader, said: “In May 2019 the East Devon electorate sent a clear message to the council that after nearly five decades of Conservative dominance they wanted change. People voted to reduce what had been 45 Conservative councillors five years earlier to just 19.
“Despite the huge defeat, the new leadership went for a business as usual approach, and last month, this approach collapsed after the Conservatives pushed for a vote of no confidence in the leader and his own group split down the middle.
“The Democratic Alliance and the Independent Progressive Group now have a majority on the council and it gives it the stability it has lacked since Cllr Ingham attempted a council of no overall control.
“It is essential that at this of all times, East Devon has a stable majority leadership. It must also have a keen eye on the district’s future wellbeing when this troubling period comes to an end. The electorate spoke and hoped for a reformed and improved council last year and our aim is to deliver that now with hard work and pride in the wonderful place that we are fortunate to call home.
“We wish to work with everyone for the benefit of East Devon, but if your interest is working friends and allies outside the council then I’m afraid that your time is up.”
Cllr Arnott, in appointing his cabinet team, announced that three new roles would be created, with the corporate resources portfolio also looking at the recovery from COVID-19, a new climate change portfolio and a democracy and transparency portfolio created. Five assistant cabinet roles will also be created.
Nominating him, Cllr Eileen Wragg, said: “Paul is an excellent leader, a very good listener and is respectful of everyone on the council. He will fully consult with everyone on his cabinet and I fully support his nomination as leader. He will lead the council into a better place than it has been for the last year.”
The new cabinet consists of:
Cllr Paul Arnott – Leader of the council
Cllr Eileen Wragg – Deputy leader of the council
Cllr Jess Bailey – Corporate Resources and COVID recovery
Cllr Megan Armstrong- Sustainable homes and communities
Cllr Geoff Jung – Coast, countryside and environment
Cllr Marianne Rixson – Climate change
Cllr Dan Ledger – Strategic Planning
Cllr Jack Rowland – Finance
Cllr Paul Hayward – Economy and Assets
Cllr Paul Millar – Democracy and Transparency
Following last May’s elections, the Independent Group, led by Cllr Ingham, took control of the council, but held just 20 of the 60 seats and so ran the council as a minority administration. But following defections from ten of the group, last week Cllr Ingham resigned from his role as leader of the council and the remainder of the cabinet quit their roles.