What Happened to West Devon Borough Council in 1995

It went LibDem-controlled - temporarily.
LDs took 15 of the 30 seats, but there was one vacancy, where no candidate had contested the seat. This gave the LD group a technical majority of 1, which enabled them to demand a majority of seats on every committee and to appoint all the chairmen and vice-chairmen from their own ranks. This they did.

The remainder of the council comprised 1 Labour and 13 Independent members, not all unsympathetic to the majority group. An Independent opposition group was formed, calling itself "The Others", comprising 10 of the Independents, plus the Labour member (who later resigned from the group).

The LDs were confident of securing the remaining seat at the ensuing by-election. They failed to do so. The successful Independent candidate then joined the Independent Group.
The LibDems still provide the chairmen and vice-chairmen of every committee.

By the way, I was re-elected, and joined the "Others" group, led by Cllr Peter Hill (Chagford). I continue to sit on the Policy & Resources Committee and the Housing Committee. I also serve on a number of Working Groups, and have become chairman of the Information Technology Management Group (ITMG), which has been responsible, amongst other things, for getting WDBC's web site launched on the internet. I also chair the Audit Working Group.

To be fair to the LD group, it has proved possible to work with them, as shown by the fact that they have not used their majority to block my chairmanship of these working groups. I leave it to you to speculate whether this is because they really wanted me, because they didn't have enough of their own to go around, or because they thought it better to give me some useful jobs than to leave me enough time be a real nuisance to them. Perhaps I am just being cynical, but I still think that the thoroughly independent structure of the previous council made better use of available talents to chair the major committees. I also think that a different story might have to be told had they (or any other political party) secured outright overall control of the council.

I am still waiting for the (nearly) controlling LD group to launch any distinctive policy initiatives. So far, they have done little more than continue the projects begun by the previous council - incidentally tearing themselves apart with internal strife over the issue of contracting out the administration of the Revenues & Benefits Service to such an extent that the outcome was determined by the votes of the "Others" group, whilst the LD's leader and deputy leader were respectively on opposite sides of the argument - and spend some of your money on a home composting trial in Chagford and North Tawton. Whilst this is quite a good idea in itself, given the rate at which landfill sites are being filled up with rubbish, it is hardly a major policy initiative, and is actually a government-sponsored one: is it unkind of me to wonder whether the LDs will try to claim exclusive political credit for it at the next council elections? Watch this space for further developments.

This page last updated 25 October 1996.

Click here to return to Roger Mathew's 1995 election address.