Tories booted out of power at Basildon Council as politicians hurl insults in heated public meeting

By Charles Thomson in Politics

THE TORY cabinet has been booted out of power at Basildon Council after opposition members ganged up to overhaul the way the authority was run.

Labour, UKIP and independent politicians joined forces to abolish the cabinet system and instead run the council via a series of cross-party committees on which no group will hold a majority of seats.

Under the new system, the council will also no longer have a leader or deputy leader. Instead, the chairman of the new ’Policy and Resources Committee’ will ’assume the responsibilities of a leader’.

Opposition members claimed the council needed to be run ’more democratically’, citing a series of decisions made by the minority Tory cabinet despite widespread opposition, such as approving plans to relocate Basildon Market and cutting funding for disability charity DIAL.

UKIP leader Linda Allport-Hodge said politics in Basildon was ’broken’, telling the meeting: "We have seven cabinet members, six of which represent Billericay."

She said the Conservatives had ’treated the scrutiny committee like a kangaroo court’ over the proposed development of Dry Street.

Labour leader Gavin Callaghan added: "We all have a legitimate voice and we are all here to represent our communities."

The change was voted through by majority in a heated public meeting this evening.

Kerry Smith described the Tory cabinet as, "a near enough criminal gang, known by some as the Billericay mafia, only interested in destroying areas like Dry Street and Dunton so them and their little friends on the Billericay Town Council can live in comfort.

"If you’ve got a Basildon postcode, Redrow gets the nod. If you’ve got a Billericay postcode, it gets Village Green status."

But Tory councillors said the change would result in ’no scrutiny’ and that there had been no public consultation.

Andrew Schrader told the meeting the change would turn the council into ’a notorious shambles’.

He said: "The public should be able to hold somebody to account. Under the leader and cabinet system, the buck ultimately stops with Cllr Turner.

"Who is accountable when the decisions are made by a faceless committee and everyone one is just sitting around going, ’It wasn’t me, guv’?"

Tory leader Phil Turner called the meeting ’a shameful display of democracy’ and accused the opposition of ’bullying and intimidating officers’ to push the change through.

He said: "You only have to look at the report to know that because the report, with respect, is shoddy. That’s why the costs are not in there.

"The costs are going to increase. No other council in the country has been able to do what we are doing here tonight without increasing costs."

Accusing mayor David Harrison, chairing the meeting, of ’bias’, he said: "The whole process is you and your opposition coalition partners railroading this through."

He described the opposition as ’a coalition of desperate people’ and ’an unholy alliance’.

Labour leader Gavin Callaghan described Cllr Turner’s comments about costs as, ’fake news rhetoric nonsense, Donald Trump style’, saying Cllr Turner could not provide any evidence of how costs would rise.

Cllr Allport-Hodge claimed committee chairs would be paid less than cabinet members.

She told the meeting: "Not only is the committee system more open, transparent and democratic, it’s more cost-effective as well."

Tory Andy Barnes slammed the change as ’a stitch-up of the worst kind’ and said it had been hatched by ’councillors conspiring behind closed doors’.

Independent Kerry Smith called out: "Like the cabinet!"

Tory member Andrew Baggott called the opposition ’unethical’.

He called Cllrs Callaghan and Allport-Hodge ’the twins in evil’ and told Cllr Callaghan: "If anybody offers you a penny for your thoughts, sell."

He added: "We have two political parties that are finished nationally, coming together to take power for the sake of it. This is a coalition. It will be interesting to see how the Labour National Executive react to that."

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