Tories lose majority on North Yorkshire Council

County Hall, Northallerton. Photo: LDRS.

North Yorkshire County is being urged to respond swiftly to the Conservative Party losing its majority for the first time since 2001 after a Tory member quit, citing dismay with the national party.

The decision of Camblesforth councillor Mike Jordan, who also quit North Yorkshire County Council’s Conservative group in 2018 to join the Yorkshire Party, means North Yorkshire Council has 45 Tory members and the same number of Liberal Democrat, Liberals, Labour, Green and Independent councillors.

However, opposition members said with three frequent Tory supporters elected as Independents the Conservatives could still get a majority of votes in the council chamber, even without holding the majority of elected members.

It is understood since Coun Jordan’s decision those Independent councillors have been approached about joining or rejoining the Conservative group.

As the Tory group no longer holds a majority council, officers charged with upholding democracy are examining the political make-up of the authority’s committees.

Nevertheless, some councillors said as the council was balanced 50-50, it would be wrong for the Conservatives to remain having a majority on every committee.

Describing the Conservative group at County Hall as both “a broad church” and “pretty feisty”, Coun Jordan emphasised his decision was not down to the Conservative leadership at County Hall, but rather concerns over the national party’s policies, such as hitting carbon cutting targets and taxation.

However, he said while all of the villages in his division supported 20s Plenty he had been dismayed by the Conservative group’s refusal to normalise 20mph speed limits in towns and villages.

Coun Jordan said: “I will sit with the unaffiliated Independents. I may join the Yorkshire Party. I’m having talks with them.

“I pay £600 a year to the party and I’m not getting out of it what I want. There’s no point in being in a team that aren’t really interested.”

When asked if it has been a mistake to rejoin the Conservative group, Coun Jordan said: “Yes, I do. The local association have got no money, no office, the office manager is about to be made redundant, and this is where the MP has a 20,000 majority. How has this been allowed to happen?

“I came back to the party and I just didn’t realise what was going on.”

Conservative group leader Councillor Carl Les said it was particularly disappointing to lose a group member when one of Coun Jordan’s major issues rested with not being selected by the national Conservative Party as a potential candidate to be an MP.

He said: “We will continue to develop policies and put them to the council and through the executive.”

Questioned if he would seek to increase working with other parties to develop policies, Coun Les said he had consulted with the leaders of other political groups when the last Conservative administration of the council held more than 76 per cent of the seats and he would not change his way of working.

He said: “I don’t believe that my group and I have a monopoly on wisdom.”

Opposition leader Councillor Bryn Griffith said Coun Jordan’s move was “indicative of the Tory Party generally – falling apart and arguing amongst themselves”.

He added: “If it was just an issue with the national Conservative Party he would have stayed put with his local party.”

Labour group leader Councillor Steve Shaw Wright said Coun Jordan’s switching of parties was “ridiculous” given that residents had voted for him as a Conservative.

He said waiting until the next full council meeting on July 19 to decide over the political representation on committees was “totally unacceptable”.

Councillor Stuart Parsons said changing the political representation on committees would “allow a closer form of democracy to come out” and suggested that even the council’s decision-making executive should only be 50 per cent Conservative.

He said: “If the leader hasn’t got the votes to carry through the decisions of the executive they are in trouble, so a sensible person would be looking to form a consensus and including other groups in what might happen. Carl Les doesn’t strike me as not being sensible. It means that their legal dictatorship of the council is over and they’re going to have to look at working with different groups and people.”

Speaking on behalf of the Green group on the council, Coun Arnold Warneken said he respected Coun Jordan’s “courage to do what he feels is the correct thing for the people he represents”.

He said the move presented “an opportunity for more collaborative decision making which can only be beneficial for the residents of North Yorkshire as prior to this all the policies for the whole of the County have been formulated by a group that only represents 41% of the residents”.

4 Comments

  1. Why do councils have to be political? Surely it would be better if they left politics to real politicians and just got on with doing their best without squabbling for those who just need the best local services possible.

  2. This is excellent news to wake up to and a small step on the way to democracy (remember that?) in our area.

  3. I’m only surprised that more Tory councilors are not dismayed with the National party.

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