GALLERY: New leader elected and cabinet system scrapped at dramatic Cambridgeshire County Council meeting

Election of Chairman and Leader for Cambridgeshire County Council.

Election of Chairman and Leader for Cambridgeshire County Council. - Credit: Archant

THERE was a tangible sense of anticipation tinged with uncertainty as Cambridgeshire County Council met for the first time since the dramatic May 2 election at Shire Hall on Tuesday.

Election of Chairman and Leader for Cambridgeshire County Council. Cllr Killian Bourke.

Election of Chairman and Leader for Cambridgeshire County Council. Cllr Killian Bourke. - Credit: Archant

On the agenda was the election of the next leader of the council and whether to scrap the cabinet system and replace it with a series of committees.

Election of Chairman and Leader for Cambridgeshire County Council. Cllr Paul Sales.

Election of Chairman and Leader for Cambridgeshire County Council. Cllr Paul Sales. - Credit: Archant

The morning sitting was dominated by a fierce debate over the structure of the council.

Election of Chairman and Leader for Cambridgeshire County Council. Cllr Peter Reeve.

Election of Chairman and Leader for Cambridgeshire County Council. Cllr Peter Reeve. - Credit: Archant

Liberal Democrat Councillor Killan Bourke tabled a motion which called for the abolition of the cabinet structure and a transition to committee led governance.

Election of Chairman and Leader for Cambridgeshire County Council. Cllr John Hipkin.

Election of Chairman and Leader for Cambridgeshire County Council. Cllr John Hipkin. - Credit: Archant

Addressing the chamber, he said: “It is wrong that so much power is concentrated in the hands of so few people.

Election of Chairman and Leader for Cambridgeshire County Council. Cllr Martin Curtis.

Election of Chairman and Leader for Cambridgeshire County Council. Cllr Martin Curtis. - Credit: Archant


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“It is harmful to the quality of decision making.

“The committee system is the most democratic and representative form of governance.

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“We need to make the change so that all council members are involved in decision making that affects their communities, not just ten cabinet representatives.”

Councillors debated the motion with conviction but, crucially, Bourke had the support of the Labour, UKIP and Independent members.

Labour leader Councillor Paul Sales said the committee system was “a better system of governance”, while Independent leader Councillor John Hipkin said “my instinct is that people can be trusted to make responsible decisions and it’s better for the responsibility for them to be with as wide a group as it is sensible to accommodate.”

Councillor Martin Curtis’ amendment to the motion, which called for the Constitution and Ethics Committee to carry out a review of all possible options for governance, was rejected.

But the afternoon sitting was more satisfying for Cllr Curtis, who saw off competition from Liberal Democrat Maurice Leeke and Cllr Hipkin to be elected Council Leader.

In the first round of voting, Cllr Curtis scored 32 votes, Cllr Hipkin, who had the support of UKIP councillors, gained 16 votes and Cllr Leeke attracted 13 votes, with Labour’s seven councillors and one Liberal Democrat councillor abstaining.

In the second round, Cllr Curtis saw off Cllr Hipkin by 32 votes to 16, with 21 abstentions.

Cllr Curtis, following his triumph, pledged to lead an inclusive administration which would look after the most vulnerable people in society.

He closed by pleading with the chamber to put behind them the speculation and “power wrangling” of the previous weeks and focus on the task at hand.

He said: “Now is the time to give up the power struggles and serve the people of Cambridgeshire.”

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