A Thanet council meeting has been called after a motion was submitted to remove authority leader , Labour’s Rick Everitt.
The motion has been lodged by Thanet Conservative Party leader Cllr Ash Ashbee and says: “In my opinion the Leader has failed to address the major governance issues that have been apparent within Thanet District Council for a considerable amount of time. As a result, I propose the Council removes the Leader of the Council from office.”
Councillors will then make the decision whether to debate the motion or not. If the motion is not debated it will fall.
If the motion is debated and the proposal is subsequently passed, this will result in the removal of the Leader of the Council from office.
As a result the council must then immediately elect a new Leader. This could result in Thanet council undergoing yet another change of administration – this time from a minority Labour lead to a Conservative lead.
Cllr Ashbee took on the Thanet Tory Party leadership after former leader after Lesley Game stepped down from the role. Cllr Game had been leader since a vote of no confidence in Cllr Bob Bayford in October 2019.
The motion will be tabled at a meeting on April 22.
Cllr Everitt has accused the Conservatives of running scared of voters due to tabling the emergency motion to try to change the council’s political leadership just two weeks before three key by-elections.
Cllr Everitt said: “I absolutely respect the right of the Tories to seek to regain control of the council, but it is cynical and undemocratic to try to do so 14 days before the by-elections in Dane Valley, Central Harbour and Newington. It is disrespectful and wrong to deprive voters in those wards of their full representation when they will have new councillors in place within a fortnight.
“I am certainly not taking any voters for granted, but it appears the Conservatives have so little confidence in their own candidates that they are prepared to deprive residents of their proper say.
“The Conservative group could have called a vote to change the leadership at any point in the last year. Labour has never had a majority or a formal alliance.
“In reality the Tories were too busy jostling for position among themselves, as the fact they have changed their leader twice in 18 months shows. Now they are cynically looking to take advantage of the death of one respected councillor and the resignation of another.
“I suspect many voters will rightly view this as undemocratic and it raises serious questions about the Tories’ judgement and their fitness to govern.”
Cllr Ashbee said she would not be making a statement to respond to the allegations.
All change – previous challenges
A motion to remove a council leader was last put forward in October 2019 and a vote of no confidence in Conservative leader Bob Bayford was passed. The motion was put by Thanet Independent Group leader Stuart Piper and resulted in councillors voting Labour’s Rick Everitt in as the new leader, meaning the end of the Conservative-led administration.
In March 2018 Cllr Bayford had been voted into the leadership role after the resignation of former leader Chris Wells. This had been forced by a UKIP Party split prompted by a failure to vote through the Thanet Draft Local Plan. It meant the end of the country’s only UKIP-led administration.
Thanet district council has been in no overall control since the 2019 election. A by-election for a casual vacancy in Newington was cancelled in March 2020 due to Covid concerns. Two further vacancies have raised in 2021 because of the recent death of long-serving Labour councillor Peter Campbell (Central Harbour) and the resignation of Thanet Independent Group councillor Gary Taylor (Dane Valley). All three by-elections are due to take place on May 6.
The current council is Conservative 25, Labour 17, Thanet Independent Group 6, Green 3, Independent 2, Vacant 3.