A ten point outline of priorities will be put together by the new leader of Thanet council, Conservative Cllr Bob Bayford, and his Cabinet.
Cllr Bayford was voted in to the top spot by other members of the authority last Thursday (March 1) in the wake of the resignation of former UKIP leader Chris Wells.
There was a noticeable lack of UKIP Party councillors in the chamber for the vote with only Cllr Hunter Stummer-Schmertzing evident on the Cabinet bench. Former leader Chris Wells did not attend.
South Thanet Tory MP Craig Mackinlay was present in the packed public bench.
The leadership vote marked the end of the UK’s only UKIP-led authority and the beginning of a minority Conservative administration.
Cllr Bayford has already nominated Cllr Jason Savage as his deputy and the full Cabinet line up will be announced on Monday. It is expected to closely resemble the former Shadow Cabinet structure.
Cllr Bayford said the 10 point outline and the Thanet Local Plan will be priorities for the administration once the ‘realities’ of the task become evident.
He said: “Initially we have to find out what is the reality of Thanet’s situation. I know from bitter experience that what you think you know in opposition and what the reality actually is can be completely different.
“There are a lot of things bubbling under the surface that as opposition we would not necessarily be informed of.
“The Local Plan will, of course, be a priority. We need to look and see what can be done. I would like to revisit it and get on with getting it out for comment, which is what failed to happen on January 18. I would hope to do this fairly quickly, but we need to look to see where officers have taken it over the last month.
“Over the next two to three weeks we will also come up with a 10 point ‘wish list,’ things that are priorities and that the public can hold us accountable for.”
Cllr Bayford reiterated the party’s backing of aviation-use at Manston and said this will be re-examined in the context of the local plan.
He added: “The real challenge is the shortness of time. Normally when you take over a council you have 4 years and a majority. We have 14 months and a significant minority.”
Pro-airport campaigners welcomed the change of leadership at TDC.
A spokesman said: “Save Manston Airport association (SMAa) welcome Cllr Bob Bayford as the new Leader of Thanet District Council, together with his still to be formed team. We hope that they will be able to work together for the benefit of the population of the Island of Thanet.
“It is to be hoped that all councillors and officers will now unite behind this minority administration and enable significant progress to be made on the restoration of commercial aviation at Manston Airport, in conjunction with a much improved draft Local Plan to present to the Secretary of State, that reflects the wishes of Thanet.
We wish them well.”
The No Night Flights campaign group has requested a meeting with Cllr Bayford to diiscuss the Manston issue.
Ian Scott, No Night Flights campaign group spokesman, said “Successive council leaders, when confronted with the facts, have faced the truth that Manston is not viable as an airport. Cllr Bayford will be presented with those same facts.
“Real leadership is about evidence-based decision-making and the real role of the council is listening to and representing its residents – all of which might have to fly in the face of party politics. We request an audience with Cllr Bayford to discuss the facts as an immediate priority.”
Labour’s Karen Constantine, who was also nominated for the leadership contest, has questioned why there was no opportunity to speak at the meeting and why the ‘proper democratic process’ was not followed by the Chair and why council officers did not prompt this to happen.
She had wanted to address Tory austerity and council outsourcing prior to the vote, adding: “We have seen services outsourced – council tax, housing benefit, non-domestic rates, debt recovery, customer services and parking appeals. We are now faced with the spectre of yet more services being outsourced.
“Doesn’t the epic failure of Carillion prove that these services are best kept in house? Doesn’t it make sense to remove the profit motive and to plough that money back into Thanet.
“We now learn that this council has entered into a pilot business rates scheme, this will take no account of deprivation or need. There is little interest in the blatant unfairness of this.
“This council needs Labour leadership and Thanet residents deserve a party who will put them actually put them first and know what they are doing.
“I’d like a commitment from Bob Bayford that he will concentrate on and take urgent action on housing, staggering child poverty, and the low pay that mars our area. I’d like his support to challenge the STP and closure of NHS services and to apply his political weight and get the street lights switched on without further delay. I’d like a commitment from him to challenge sexism in the TDC chamber.”
Former leader Cllr Wells said the new administration would “encounter the same legal and moral dilemmas” over Manston as UKIP in a bid to hang on to a “sterile airport site.”
The Conservatives last had full control of Thanet council in 2003-2007. Since 2011 there have been three periods of no overall control. UKIP had the majority in 2015 but lost it the same year. It regained that majority in 2016 but lost is again last year after defections and resignations.