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Audit That: Opposition Push Back Against the Folkestone and Hythe Conservative Power Grab

Constitution of Folkestone and Hythe District Council Part 4 Cover sheet

The Opposition members of the Audit and Governance Committee on Folkestone and Hythe District Council have today put down a motion to remove the Chair and Vice-Chair of the committee and to hold a meeting to elect their successors.

At the District Council AGM meeting on Wednesday night, the Conservatives used their deal with the Independent and UKIP Councillors to not just take control of the council but secure every single Committee Chair and Vice-Chair by 16 (sometimes 15) votes to 14. The Liberal Democrats, Labour and Green Parties supported a move for all Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs to be elected by and from the committees themselves, but the proposal was blocked by Officers and the Council Chair.

However, as there is a non-Conservative majority on the key Audit and Governance Committee, Tim Prater, Ray Field and Lesley Whybrow (from the Lib Dems, Labour and Greens respectively) have today called on the Committee Chair and Head of Paid Service for a special meeting of the committee and for the removal of the Chair and Vice-Chair as they are empowered to do so under the Council Consistution.

Lib Dem Group Leader Tim Prater explained:

"We've made clear that we plan to hold the Conservatives and those that are supporting them to account. We will do so, and this is part of that work.

"The Audit and Governance Committee has a key role in looking in detail at how the Council operates, its constitution and its finances. It is imperative that role is taken seriously, and not just a submissive part of the administration. Many councils ensure that Overview and Scrutiny Committees are Chaired by opposition members specifcally to get robust oversight - that was stopped here years ago.

"Now we'll see how seriously the council take upholding their constitution. The process we've used should see a special meeting of the committee called within the next few days, with the motion to remove the current Chair and Vice-Chair and election of replacements as items of business. That's what I hope and expect to see happen."

The notice read:

Requisition for Special Meeting of Audit and Governance Committee

Under 10.1 (f) of Part 5.2 of the District Council constitution, it allows for meetings to be called if:

At least two, or one quarter of the total number of the voting members of a committee or sub-committee, whichever is greater, if they have signed a requisition presented to the chairman of the committee, or sub-committee, and he/she has refused to call a meeting, or has failed to call a meeting, within five clear working days of the presentation of the requisition.

Please accept this notice as a signed requisition for such a meeting. Further, we put on notice that we will be requesting the meeting to be called directly as is our right under the constitution if a Special Meeting is not called within five clear working days of the receipt of this requisition.

In addition, the constitution allows under 4.4 of Part 5.2 that:

"The relevant committee or sub-committee may remove the chairman or vice-chairman of the committee or sub-committee, at any time, by resolution of the committee or sub-committee, on notice of motion moved under Rule 16."

Under Rule 16 with this notice we are also moving (in writing, and with at least 10 clear working days before meeting) this motion to remove both the current chairman and vice-chairman of the Audit and Governance Committee at the Special Meeting, and to require that the election of a new chairman and vice-chairman at that meeting should the motion be passed.

Tim Prater, Member of Audit and Governance Committee

Ray Field, Member of Audit and Governance Committee

Lesley Whybrow, Member of Audit and Governance Committee