Ukip gift Labour key council roles...but party say there's no pact

Thurrock Gazette: Steve Liddiard, left, Thurrock's new mayor with outgoing mayor Tony Fish Steve Liddiard, left, Thurrock's new mayor with outgoing mayor Tony Fish

UKIP gifted Labour councillors key council roles by choosing not to take sides with either of the big two.

After battering the Conservatives and Labour the Eurosceptic party now has six seats - and just five seats separate the Labour and the Tories leaving no party with overall control.

Ukip, who therefore hold the balance of power, gifted almost all of the council’s significant roles to Labour at last week’s annual general meeting.

As Graham Farrant, the chief executive, explained the rules of a “requisition vote” - called for by the Conservatives, meaning councillors’ names would be called out for selection - Labour leader John Kent got up to remind members they could also choose to abstain.

And that’s what Ukip did every vote bar two.

Ukip did actively vote for Tory councillor Sue Little to sit on the adoption panel - and for fellow Tory Brian Little to be vice-chairman of the planning committee.

Rob Gledhill, leader of the Conservatives, was unhappy.

He said: “By Ukip ducking their responsibilities they have allowed Labour to be able to make decisions and scrutinise them, effectively checking their own homework.

“They set a poor precedent and their inability to stand up and be counted will no doubt leave a bitter taste in mouths of their supporters.”

Steve Liddiard, the Tilbury St Chads ward councillor, was elected as mayor – defeating the Tory candidate Tunde Ojetola.

Terry Hipsey will continue as chairman of the planning committee, while Labour councillors will also chair all of the council’s other committees.

After the vote, Mr Kent congratulated the new Labour mayor.

He said: “Steve you are held in high regard across the chamber and we’re all sure you’ll serve your year in good humour, professionally, with dignity and we all wish you well.

“I hope Tunde understands that in a very tight political situation, the vagaries of politics do come to the fore.”

Mr Liddiard added: “It’s wonderful to be here.

“I promise to do my best to be the best, someone that others can use as an example of what is good about government and politics in councils.” 

 

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Ukip group leader Robert Ray insisted no deals had been brokered between Ukip and the other parties.

He told the Gazette: “We weren’t there to do deals with anybody, especially not at this stage.

“As for election of the mayor, we perceived that councillor Liddiard was the best option. He has been a good councillor, certainly in the two years that I’ve known him.

“Plus, Tunde Ojetola has made various quotes and various votes that weren’t to our liking, so he wasn’t in our best books to vote for him as mayor. It was nothing personal, Steve Liddiard came over as the best option.

“But, we had discussed that we would not be king maker – which is why we abstained from the vote.”

The Ukip councillor also insisted no deals had been done prior to the meeting, but he did confirm one brief meeting had taken place with Labour leader John Kent and with Conservative leader Rob Gledhill.

He added: “There’s been no real in depth discussion and we have only pointed out our position that we will only take a side if it’s in the best interests for Thurrock.

“If ideas or policies are sensible and good for the people of Thurrock, we will vote for them. But if it’s not, or if it’s petty, then we won’t.

“We do have the balance of power, but we don’t want to cause mayhem and silliness.”

He added: “Last night, we gave a bit to the Tories and a bit to Labour. But we can’t go in and change the world.”

Mr Ray said that the Ukip councillors need to learn the ropes and gain experience within the council before demanding to chair committees themselves.

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