Motion of No Confidence quashed after debate behind closed doors

A group of people standing in a doorway: Opposition councillors at Uttlesford

A cross-party alliance put forward a Motion of No Confidence in the current R4U administration. Picture: Will Durrant - Credit: Archant

District councillors have backed the Residents for Uttlesford administration after a Motion of No Confidence last night (June 29). 

Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green councillors tabled a vote of no confidence in Councillor John Lodge's administration, accusing R4U of presiding over a culture of intimidation.

After a debate from which the press and public were excluded, councillors voted to back Cllr Lodge and the R4U administration 20 votes to 10.

The press and public were excluded from hearing the Motion of No Confidence debate on the grounds that it could contain legally privileged information.

Today (Tuesday), the council said it will release the footage into the public domain as nothing which falls into an "exempt" category was said.

R4U Councillor John Lodge, leader at Uttlesford District Council. Photo: R4U.

R4U Councillor John Lodge, leader at Uttlesford District Council. Photo: R4U. - Credit: R4U

After the meeting, Cllr Lodge said the motion amounted to a stunt.

He said: "The opposition failed to come up with any evidence for their claims.

"They are just extremely frustrated that Westminster parties are being excluded here."

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Cllr Lodge said any mandate he had gained from last night's vote was "completely irrelevant".

He said: "The massive poll victory on May 6 is the mandate that we need.

"The residents know what we're doing and they vote for us."

Residents for Uttlesford won two out of four county council seats within Uttlesford on May 6.

Cllr Lodge said his administration was doing an "incredible job" with its focus on green programmes and economic recovery after the pandemic.

Cllr Lodge's administration was accused of a failure to defend democratic decisions, and failures of good governance and accountability.

The Motion of No Confidence said that the council had failed to defend a democratic decision to block Stansted Airport's expansion proposal at a planning appeal hearing.

The cross-party alliance's motion also accused the council of a failure of good governance over an ongoing police investigation.

The cross-party alliance finally accused UDC leaders of a failure of accountability, claiming they had created a "vicious" culture of intimidation.

A sign: Essex Police, Uttlesford District Council

Essex Police is probing a "governance issue" at Uttlesford District Council. Picture: Will Durrant - Credit: Archant

A Zoom call. Top left: a man with a large beard speaks.

Cllr Fairhurst spoke via Zoom - Credit: Archant

In the public part of the meeting, Cllr Paul Fairhurst accused the cabinet of "skulduggery" and secrecy.

Cllr Fairhurst said: "We are not a collaborative voice, not positive, not even focused on working together in the best interest of the district.

"How do we salvage the dream?

"Or do we just concede that we are just ordinary politicians after all."

Cllr Fairhurst left R4U for the Green Party in 2019.

When press and public were excluded from the meeting, Green Party Cllrs Barbara Light and Vere Isham left the chamber in protest.

After leaving the chamber, Cllr Light said she did not want to legitimise the meeting with her presence.

She said: "A meeting in private has no legitimacy.

"This has to be heard in public - with the public and press present."

Cllr Light said she would like to see the leadership step down.

Green Party Cllr Barbara Light.

Green Party Cllr Barbara Light. - Credit: Archant

Speaking after the meeting, the leader of the Conservative Group said the decision by the Greens to walk out was "unhelpful".

Cllr Chris Criscione said: "I categorically disagree with this method of protest, but I respect the views of Cllrs Light and Isham."

He added: "There has got to be a better way.

"The meeting was about identifying where the council could perform better.

"I hope that there will be a change of leadership in due course."

Cllr Melvin Caton, Liberal Democrat Group leader, said after the meeting: "I think you could say that we saw a robust debate between critical friends."

Cllr Caton said members are often "left in the dark" on council issues.

He said he relies on local media to find out about key council issues such as the Stansted Airport expansion plan.

He added: "The atmosphere at the council can feel quite toxic.

"R4U needs to be much more proactive and approachable."

Of the 39 seats on Uttlesford District Council, R4U holds 24.

An earlier version of this story contained an inaccurate reference to the ongoing police investigation which has now been deleted.

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