Hunts slimline cabinet - volunteers to get cash savings

ONLY two members of the previous Huntingdonshire District Council cabinet have survived into the new slimline version announced on Monday by the council’s first executive leader in waiting Councillor Jason Ablewhite.

And the �24,000 a year HDC saves by reducing the size of the cabinet by one third will be put back into the budget for voluntary organisations that was hugely reduced by the council in February.

As well as being leader, Cllr Ablewhite will take principal responsibility for strategic economic development and growth. His deputy, Councillor Nick Guyatt, will take over strategic planning and transport – a portfolio he held until 2007 – and employment, green and leisure infrastructure.

The two survivors are Councillors Terry Rogers, who retains the finance portfolio as well as looking after human resources, estates and the council’s interface with the public, and Jonathan Gray, whose environment portfolio includes promoting good environmental practices to the public and throughout the council.

The other two newcomers are Councillors Tom Sanderson (healthy and active communities) and Barry Chapman (organisational development).

Out go Councillors Ian Bates, the former leader who is now a cabinet member-designate at Cambridgeshire County Council, Mike Simpson, former deputy leader who did not seek re-election to the council last week, Ken Churchill, Doug Dew, Andrew Hansard, Colin Hyams and Debbie Reynolds.

The new appointments, along with Cllr Ablewhite’s ratification as HDC’s first ‘executive leader’, will take effect at the council’s annual meeting on Wednesday next week, May 18.

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Cllr Ablewhite said on Monday: “My vision for Huntingdonshire is to protect and enhance the unique characteristics and quality of life that the district provides for its residents. I believe that this council provides an excellent service, and I am committed to maintaining real value for money to council tax payers and supporting appropriate growth across Huntingdonshire.”

He added: “The council faces difficult financial times and to reflect that I intend to appoint a smaller cabinet than in previous years. My cabinet will consist of six members, three fewer than now. I believe it is right and proper for the number of cabinet members to reflect the leaner, more focused council that we have now.”

The former scrutiny panel chairman told The Hunts Post: “I want to put the �24,000 we save from that into the voluntary sector pot. At the same time, we shall give greater responsibility to the scrutiny panels, so there will be more people involved in the decision-making process.”

Liberal Democrat leader Councillor Peter Downes reacted: “We are pleased to see that Jason Ablewhite has immediately adopted one of the proposals we put forward last year in our cost-cutting package, namely a reduction in the size of the cabinet.

“The new cabinet team faces many challenges and, even though we are reduced in number, the Lib Dems will be keeping a close eye on their performance and holding them to account. We will be particularly interested to see how the new council leader fulfils the promise he made via the Hunts Post to be ‘more inclusive’ towards the Lib Dems.”