Thanet council has a new leader – and a new minority Labour administration – following a vote of no confidence in Conservative leader Bob Bayford.
The motion was put by Thanet Independent Group leader Stuart Piper asking for the vote of no confidence and, an added amendment, for the removal of Cllr Bayford from office.
Cllr Piper likened Cllr Bayford’s leadership to a captain who was rudderless, making numerous references to the Titanic.
He added: “It would be crass to suggest there have been no successes at the helm, it all started so well.”
But he said: “(Cllr Bayford) made promises he did not keep. Mortal blows have been struck to the reputation of this council.”
Cllr Bayford hit back, saying it was a personal attack orchestrated by Cllr Piper’s ‘puppet master in Ramsgate,’ understood to be a reference to campaigning by Ramsgate Action Group member Steve Coombes. Cllr Piper denied the accusation.
The move was branded ‘shameful’ by Conservative member Lesley Game. Green councillor Becky Wing (pictured) told the chamber she found the behaviour ‘shocking’ and said there should be “a kinder politics, not throwing mud at each other, but listening to each other.”
She added that the council needed “A strong leader, I don’t care what political persuasion, and they need the courage to bring together a coalition cabinet of the strongest people in the room.”
A vote saw 29 in favour of removing Bob Bayford from leadership, 22 against and one abstention.
Nominations were then immediately made for a new leader. Cllr Bayford was again put forward, Labour leader Rick Everitt was nominated and a nomination was made for Conservative Ash Ashby – who refused the option of being voted in to the role.
The new vote, which has two abstentions, was won by Labour’s Rick Everitt, meaning not only was Bob Bayford ousted but the Conservatives lost control of the council.
Cllr Everitt said Labour did not bring the motion to remove Bob Bayford but did believe his party was best placed to lead Thanet council. He said: “We will try to work as collaboratively as we can with every member of the council, whatever group they are in.”
The new leader said Thanet council’s problems were not all down to one person, that the area was in the grip of “a shortage of jobs, a shortage of homes” and cuts in funding.
He added: “Putting Labour in the driving seat can provide better leadership but won’t solve everything.”
Collaborative working will be a necessity as Labour holds just 20 of the council’s 56 seats. Conservatives hold 25, 7 Thanet Independent Group, 3 Green and 1 Independent.