THE five independent members of BCP Council are remaining tight-lipped about their voting intentions ahead of Thursday’s leadership election.
Conservative councillor Drew Mellor will go up against Lib Dem Vikki Slade for the council’s top role after the latter was deposed in a vote of no confidence earlier this month, writes Josh Wright of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
With her Unity Alliance administration having three fewer members than the 36-strong opposition Conservative group, the votes of the five independents could be key on Thursday.
The vote of no confidence against Cllr Slade passed by 39 votes to 33 at the 15th September council meeting, with two councillors abstaining.
It was brought following concerns about the council’s handling of the active travel schemes which have prompted a backlash amid criticism that not enough consultation had been carried out.
This concern prompted Cllr Julie Bagwell to leave the ruling coalition over what she called “a catalogue of catastrophic policy decisions”.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Mellor said the success of the vote “put clear blue water between the past and future”.
Deputy leader Cllr Mark Howell has taken on the acting leader role since then, and will remain in place until a new leader is elected at an extraordinary meeting on Thursday evening.
The Conservative group has confirmed it will put forward Cllr Mellor as its candidate while the Unity Alliance coalition has agreed to nominate Cllr Slade.
Voting for the leader position will be carried out through a secret ballot, with no councillor required to publicly reveal their vote.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service contacted the five independent councillors although none was willing to confirm their voting intentions ahead of the meeting.
Among them are former Unity Alliance members Cllr Nigel Brooks, Cllr Bagwell and Cllr Daniel Butt; the latter two were elected last year as part of the Poole People group but left over concerns they were being “whipped” into supporting policies with which they did not agree.
Both Cllr Bagwell and Cllr Butt supported the vote of no confidence in Cllr Slade but were not willing to reveal who they were planning to support on Thursday.
Cllr Bagwell said: “We are not political and we shall be making our decision based on the person nominated who is the best person for the extremely complex and demanding role.”
Both the leader and deputy leader of the council will be elected at Thursday’s meeting, with the new leader then selecting their cabinet.