EAST Devon District Council’s leader and his Cabinet have resigned with immediate effect as a new Democratic Alliance of councillors has been formed to take the majority.
Councillor Ben 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 majority leadership in East Devon.
Three broadly equal political groups were then tasked with forming an administration, accepted by the Independent Group under Cllr Ingham’s leadership.
That administration has now stood down as they say the “balance has now changed”.
The Independent East Devon Alliance, Liberal Democrats, Green Party and Independent Progressive Group have come together to form the Democratic Alliance, capable of delivering an overall majority of members in the council and gaining the right to form the administration.
Following the leader and Cabinet’s resignation, a meeting of the council will be called to form a new administration.
Cllr Ingham said: “Since being elected unanimously as Leader of East Devon District Council, with the support of the Independent Group I have done my very best to make our council as fit to serve our communities as possible.
“We created a superb four year council plan that our officers have committed to on such a scale that East Devon District Council received the platinum award for Investors in People, something only a very select number of other councils in the country have achieved. That tells me we were on track.
“Strategically we have planned for the long term interests of East Devon and our communities. So I am sorry to see us forced to stop so soon. I believe the vast majority of people in East Devon will approve of what we have planned and what we have achieved on their behalf.
“I thank all of our officers for their support and exemplary conduct during this COVID-19 pandemic. They are a credit to all of us who live in East Devon.”
A statement from the Independent Group added: “The May 2019 East Devon District Council elections saw an end to forty-five years of Conservative majority leadership. Three broadly equal political groups meant that to form an administration was always going to be challenging, a task accepted by the Independent Group, under leader Cllr Ben Ingham.
“One year later, the balance has changed. The Independent East Devon Alliance, Liberal Democrats, Green Party and Independent Progressive Group have come together to form the Democratic Alliance, capable of delivering an overall majority of members in the council and gaining the right to form the administration.
“It is therefore time for the leadership team of the Independent Group to step aside. Our whole Cabinet is dissolved with immediate effect.
“Whilst the unique circumstances of an active COVID-19 pandemic are hardly an ideal time for a leadership change, we will ensure this change takes place in a manner which minimises any risk to service provision, disruption to our officer colleagues, local authority and private sector partners, East Devon residents and businesses, by taking a clear and decisive step without delay.
“Current Independent Group Cabinet portfolio holders and committee chairs have all personally committed to ensure their successors in the new Democratic Alliance administration receive a full and comprehensive handover of responsibilities.
“The Independent Group would like to thank all who have supported us during the last year and commit to maintaining a full and active part in the future of East Devon District Council.”
After the news was announced, Conservative councillor for the Axminster ward, Ian Hall, took to social networking site Twitter to say: “At a time of the COVID-19 emergency, some councillors have decided to collectively concentrate on personal agenda’s for power instead of supporting the Admin & Officers. This is not the time and I hope that you can all still look at yourselves in the mirror at the end of the day!