Posted: 28.05.20 at 20:03 by Philip Evans
CONFUSION surrounds the election of a new leader for East Devon District Council tonight, which was taking place via video conferencing.
The meeting, being streamed live on YouTube, was suspended for violating the site’s terms and conditions after a councillor is alleged to have used a profanity which was not muted.
Councillors were voting to replace Cllr Ben Ingham who stood down last week with his entire cabinet. The mass resignation came after defections by eight members of the ruling Independent Group.
Two councillors were nominated to succeed him – Cllr Paul Arnot, an Independent East Devon Alliance candidate, from Colyton, and Cllr Andrew Moulding, from Axminster, a Conservative who has served on the district council for 33 years and is a former chairman.
Cllr Arnott, who was nominated by Cllr Eileen Wragg (Exmouth Town, Liberal Democrat), and seconded by Cllr Paul Haward (Yarty, Independent East Devon Alliance) had poled 31 votes with Cllr Moulding on 18 when the YouTube video was removed removed because it had violated terms and conditions of the streaming service. By that time, eight councillors had abstained.
A post on Twitter later confirmed that the meeting, which was chaired by council chairman Stuart Hughes (Sidmouth-Sidford, Conservative) had been adjourned “due to technical issues”.
The meeting will be resumed at the earliest opportunity.
The meeting was convened because the mass resignation came after defections by eight members of the ruling Independent Group – seven to the Independent Progressive Group and one to the Democratic Alliance, a group formed of the East Devon Alliance, Liberal democrats, the Green Party and three independents.
Cllr Ingham was elected leader of the council with the support of the Independent Group following the May 2019 elections, which saw the end of 45 years of Conservative leadership in East Devon.
In making her nomination, Cllr Wragg described Cllr Arnott as an “excellent communicator, a good listener and respectful of all parties, adding: “He will lead this council into a better place.”
Cllr Tom Wright (Budleigh and Raleigh, Conservative) proposed Cllr Moulding. He claimed the council was “playing politics at a time of great crisis”. Cllr Moulding was a man of great integrity who was highly regarded throughout Devon, he said.
“We all remember his last spell as chairman and he was always prepared to listen and be persuaded.”
In seconding Cllr Moulding, Cllr Helen Parr (Coly Valley, Conservative) said the council was facing its most challenging time with a £5.3million deficit caused by COVID-19.
She said: “Cllr Moulding has a proven track record and is a safe pair of hands to carry us through these troubled times.”
Earlier, councillors voted in favour of holding their annual meeting to elect a new chairman and vice-chairman – a separate role to the leader - on June 8. Cllr Moulding proposed that the current chairman, Cllr Hughes, should stay in position for a second term as the residents of East Devon wanted their councillors and staff to concentrate on the effects of coronavirus.
Cllr Ian Hall (Conservative, Axminster) seconded the proposition but it was defeated by 37 votes to 22.
No officers were available this evening to comment on why the live YouTube streaming was removed