(pictured: Labour’s Cllr Sam Corcoran)
Following the most recent round of local elections, which saw Cheshire East Council slip out of the Tories’ hands and into no overall control, talks have been going on between the three main groups of councillors.
The Conservatives won 34 seats and Labour won 25 seats, while the local group of independent councillors has 16 seats (together independents now hold 19 seats, though only 16 opted to join the ‘Independent Group’).
Since no group has an overall majority on its own, it was necessary for them to negotiate with one another in order to secure arrangements for governance of the council.
It was announced yesterday (Monday 13th May) that Labour will work with the Independent Group as part of a plan which will see both groups participate in a transitional cabinet for a fixed term of 12 months, after which the council will move to a committee system of control.
The Independent Group argues that this will deliver “much needed reform” at Cheshire East Council and it was one of their ‘red lines’ during negotiations.
Labour and Conservative councillors refused to work together within an all-party agreement, and so the Independent Group (as the third largest grouping) says it was forced to decide which party to back in order for the council to continue operating smoothly.
The 12-month transition agreement means that the Independent Group will appoint the deputy leader of the council, whilst the Labour group will appoint the council leader.
The groups have chosen Cllr Sam Corcoran (Labour) as leader and Cllr Craig Browne (independent) as deputy leader.
The two groups will now share the responsibility of running the transitional cabinet until May 2020, while the Conservative group will carry out the scrutiny function to oversee the operation of each council department.
A spokesperson for the Independent Group said: “The Independent Group has long campaigned to ‘Change Cheshire East’ so it adopts a more open and transparent form of governance.
“This announcement means the current system where eight cabinet members run the council will be scrapped and replaced with a more transparent committee-based system, where key decisions are discussed and voted on in public.”
They added: “The Independent Group felt that a completely new team was needed to ensure this vital reform takes place.
“As a result, it is now confident the new committee system will be implemented by May 2020, the start of the next municipal year.”
As the financial budget for the coming year is already in place, they say there is limited scope to deviate from the previous administration’s financial plans over the next 12 months.
(pictured: independent councillor, Cllr Craig Browne)
Cllr Craig Browne, recently appointed as leader of the Independent Group, commented: “We would like to thank the residents of Cheshire East for their votes and for trusting us to deliver the change they so desperately want to see.
“They gave us 25% of Cheshire East councillors and with no party in overall control we have had to make the very difficult decision of who will deliver its vital public services and reform how it is run in the future.”
He continued: “There are aspects of working with both major parties which give us cause for concern and we have not taken this decision lightly.
“However, this 12-month agreement is necessary to bring about the vital changes needed to ensure Cheshire East operates in an open and transparent manner for the years to come.
“The transition agreement means we can deliver this change within 12 months. We have asked the Conservatives to act as watchdog over our daily management of the council, but they will not be able to block key reforms.”
Cllr Sam Corcoran, who is to take on the role of leader of Cheshire East Council, said: “The agreement with the Independent Group will ensure that services continue to be delivered, provide re-assurance to staff and partners and enable us to start work on delivering Labour’s manifesto for Cheshire East, whilst replacing the shambolic Conservative regime that has brought so much discredit and criticism upon Cheshire East Council.”