Thanet council has a new leader – and yet another change of political control

New council leader Ash Ashbee and former leader Rick Everitt who resigned from the role in April

A vote for a new leader of Thanet council has resulted in yet another change of administration with Conservatives now back in control of the authority.

Former council and current Labour Party leader Rick Everitt resigned from the role in April to thwart a Tory bid to use a vote of no confidence to retake control of the council prior to the local elections on May 6.

Parties on the council were invited to make nominations for leader to be voted on at a meeting held at Ramsgate Leisure Centre tonight (June 3).

This led to nominations for Conservative Ash Ashbee, Labour’s Rick Everitt and Green’s Mike Garner.

A request from Cllr Becky Wing for each of those nominated to outline their plans was not accepted by the council chairman.

Cllr Garner did not get through the first vote. A second vote resulted in 30 for Cllr Ashbee and 18 for Cllr Everitt. Votes for Cllr Everitt included  the three Thanet Greens who were present along with the 15 Labour members in attendance.

Cllr Ashbee said the group would be “rolling up our sleeves and getting down to work immediately.”

She added that she would like to make positive changes and to introduce forward thinking projects to the isle.

She said her priorities would be dealing with the issues of governance and finance. She added she wanted Thanet to be a place where businesses would want to come and where good quality jobs would be offered.

Cllr Ashbee said: “I’m incredibly proud to be elected as Leader for Thanet District Council. As a Thanet resident for 33 years I have a great fondness for the district and I want to assure residents and business owners that I along with my group will work hard to resolve problems and look for opportunities to bring positive community and business success to the area.”

Members of the new Cabinet will be confirmed tomorrow (Friday 4 June) and the first Cabinet meeting will take place on Tuesday 8 June.

Cllr Everitt said he was proud of his Cabinet and council members for the work done over the difficult previous months. He added that the council’s performance during the pandemic was exemplary.

Since 2018 the council has been led by UKIP, Conservative and Labour. UKIP’s control came to an end in February 2018 when party leader Chris Wells resigned due to a rebellion in his party over the Manston airport site.

Conservative Bob Bayford then took up the role. But a motion to remove him as council leader was last put forward in October 2019 with a vote of no confidence being 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.

The attempt to oust the Labour Party from its minority administration then came but Cllr Everitt’s resignation from the role meant a takeover was not possible. Cllr Helen Whitehead, deputy leader in the Labour Cabinet, temporarily stepped up into the leader’s role during the interim until tonight’s vote.

Thanet has 56 councillors in total. The political composition is: 25 Conservative; 17 Labour; 6 Thanet Independents; 4 Green and 3 Independents plus one vacant seat following the resignation of Tory Lesley Game to concentrate on her county council role.

The political numbers mean control will still need to rely on support from others, such as Thanet Independents group, Thanet Greens or independent councillors, to gain a majority vote in decision making.