Motion of no confidence - may be held behind closed doors

UDC building

Uttlesford District Council building - Credit: Archant

A motion of no confidence in the leader and the cabinet of Uttlesford District Council has been tabled for an extraordinary meeting scheduled for next Monday (June 28).

But cross-party councillors who back the motion have objected to plans to hear the item in private, with the public and press excluded, and they have written to object to council chief executive Dawn French and UDC's monitoring officer.

Thirteen councillors representing Liberal Democrats, Conservatives, and the Green party are accusing the leader and cabinet of having "failed on a number of fronts".

The cross-party motion states the council, led by Residents For Uttlesford, has "failed to defend democratic decisions", including the Planning Committee’s Stansted Airport decision.

It claims the council has "demonstrated a lack of good governance" with an external auditor being unable to sign off the council’s accounts for 2019/20.

The third claim is the council has "failed to respect the principle of Democratic Accountability" and the motion lists allegations of inappropriate professional behaviour.

R4U has said they refute these points.

Cllr Melvin Caton, leader of the Liberal Democrats on UDC, has proposed the motion. He said 10 Planning Committee members had voted to refuse the airport application but at the appeal, the council's position changed.

Cllr Caton said: “Councillors have never been given a plausible explanation of why the council’s defence team made this undemocratic about-turn.

Most Read

"It resulted in Uttlesford being told by the Planning Inspectors to pay for the costs of the appeal incurred by the airport appellants. This behaviour could cost local people millions."

Cllr Geoffrey Sell, deputy leader of Uttlesford Lib Dems, said it was a "democratic outrage" that the vote of no confidence was being scheduled to be heard in private.

Cllr Chris Criscione, leader of the Conservatives on UDC, said: "The fact that three completely different parties have put politics aside to call for this motion highlights just how concerning the situation has become, and that it can not be allowed to continue. 

"R4U have for too long tried to silence critics and wave away genuine concerns about the way the council is being run, so it’s very little surprise that they’ve looking to hide their shortcomings by pushing the meeting into private. It’s completely unacceptable."

The two independent councillors at UDC are not involved.

R4U’s John Lodge, Leader of UDC, said the opposition coalition's "insidious politicking" had real consequences.

"We refute their complaints and their motion seems to have clearly been designed to wreck UDC’s chances of overturning the Stansted Airport expansion at the High Court, by attempting to force the revealing of the council’s legal strategy and evidence to the airport’s owners.

"Because of this UDC officers have quickly acted on legal advice that this debate must happen in private.

"Whilst this might upset the Conservatives, who approved the expansion in the first place, and their opposition local coalition partners, we agree that it is imperative that UDC’s chances of winning are protected.”

An Uttlesford District Council spokesperson said: "The council is following independent legal advice in holding this debate in private so as to not prejudice related ongoing matters.

"The outcome will be made available to the press and public after the meeting has concluded.”

The Green party has been approached for comment.