They are even Changing the Guard in leafy Surrey!

Spelthorne Conservatives ousted from leader and mayor roles

Julie Armstrong

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The Conservatives have been ousted from four major roles on Spelthorne Borough Council as a new style of administration was voted in.

John Boughtflower, who has been leader since last June, had the support of all his Conservative colleagues in Thursday’s annual meeting, but 18 Tories are outnumbered by 21 councillors in opposition and Cllr Boughtflower lost the vote to the Liberal Democrats’ Lawrence Nichols.

Despite the opposition being made up of seven different groups, they all also stuck together to choose Joanna Sexton, leader of Independent Spelthorne Group, as deputy leader over Conservative Jim McIlroy.

Independent councillor Ian Beardsmore said: “Just as a historical note, this is the first time in the history of Spelthorne the Conservatives have lost five major votes in a row. I am delighted.”

Cllr Boughtflower fought off a motion of no confidence less than three months ago when the Liberal Democrats and Labour decided to abstain.

The role of council leader has since changed, as Spelthorne council introduces the more democratic committee system, a bottom-up approach.

Decisions will now be made by all members in full council, not just a select few of the ruling party in a cabinet chosen by one person. Expect them to take longer, but everyone who won their ward’s vote will have a say.

Cllr Tom Fidler, who seconded Cllr Nichols for leader, said: “Had we operated under the strong leader model, this would never have been appropriate for Lawrence, because that is not the person he is.

“For him it isn’t about the power, it’s not about the title, it’s about the corporate responsibility.”

Cllr Nichols was accountable for more than £500 million of trade credit risk in his former role as director for a Royal Bank of Scotland subsidiary.

In recognition of the leader’s role no longer including executive responsibilities, the Independent Remuneration Panel has recommended reducing his allowance from £14,616 to £11,000, in addition to the £6,403 allowance received by all councillors.

Ian Harvey elected as 2021-22 mayor

Continuing the trend of removing Conservatives, Ian Harvey outraged some councillors by breaking with tradition to challenge the deputy mayor for the role of mayor – and won.

Proposer Olivia Rybinski, also from the United Spelthorne Group, said Cllr Harvey had “protected Spelthorne council from financial disaster” by making “investments that now generate over half the net council income”.

Normally, after a year of supporting and understudying the mayor, Tony Harman would have progressed to the position.

Cllr Tony Mitchell, who proposed Conservative Cllr Harman for mayor, said: “I have known only once, in 2002, that there was another nomination against the councillor who was to be the mayor.”

He said Cllr Harman had been a “mediating force” as deputy to Cllr Harvey’s recent council leadership and “without his support, Cllr Harvey might not have been able to maintain his role as leader”.

On accepting the robes, Cllr Harvey thanked Cllr Harman for his support to outgoing mayor Colin Barnard.

As mayor, Cllr Harvey will chair all full council meetings for the coming year. He said: “It is unfortunate that we are in such a fractious and divided situation. It is my desire that we can operate in an atmosphere of constructive cooperation and civility and preferably with cordiality. I will do my best to further this.”

He promised that where it was necessary to use the mayor’s casting vote in a tie position, it would not be decided along political lines.

He has not yet chosen his charity of the year but said he wanted to help young people with special educational needs.

Cllr Sue Doran, leader of the Labour group, was elected as deputy mayor.