Cambridgeshire County Council chooses a new leader

Earlier today, Cambridgeshire County Council met for the first time since the local elections, and voted in Conservative Martin Curtis as its new Leader. This was despite the fact that the Conservatives no longer command an overall majority on the Council. Here’s a reminder of the balance of power after the elections on May 2nd:

Cambs County 2013

The Conservatives now have 32 seats, with 37 non-Conservatives. Since there are 69 seats altogether, control of the Council requires a total of 35 seats, leaving the Conservatives three short. Technically, following changes brought in by the Localism Act 2011, former Council leader Nick Clarke also remained a councillor until his successor was appointed, despite having lost his Fulbourn seat. However, he took no part in the voting today.

There were three candidates for Council leader for councillors to choose from:

  • Conservative Martin Curtis, of Whittlesey North, who was elected leader of the Conservative group ahead of Mac McGuire following Cllr Clarke’s defeat
  • Liberal Democrat Maurice Leeke of Waterbeach, who recently replaced Kilian Bourke as leader of the Lib Dem group
  • Independent John Hipkin, of Castle in Cambridge, leader of the four-strong group of Independent councillors

There were two rounds of voting, with the lowest-ranked candidate eliminated after the first round. Here’s how the voting went in the first round:

Cllr Curtis topped the first round with the support of the 32 Conservatives. Cllr Hipkin was second with the support of the 12 UKIP councillors in addition to the four Independents. Cllr Leeke received the votes of 13 of the Lib Dems – the other Lib Dem, Councillor Peter Downes of Brampton and Kimbolton, reportedly abstained because he felt the vote should have been a secret ballot. The seven Labour councillors also abstained.

With third-placed Cllr Leeke eliminated, voting went to a run-off between Cllrs Curtis and Hipkin. The votes were as follows:

The Lib Dems joined Labour in abstaining, meaning that Cllr Curtis was elected Leader by 32 votes to 16. However, Cllr Curtis will not enjoy the sweeping scope of action of his predecessor. The Council also voted for a change from the leader-and-cabinet system to a committee-based system, which will give councillors more power relative to the leader, and  a series of constitutional changes which will limit the Conservative’s control in the year until the new system comes in. There are some interesting times ahead.

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