7.1 Councillor Morley thanked Members for electing her. She said it was a great and humbling honour to be elected Leader to Mid Suffolk District Council during a significant time of change but also following a time of great progress and achievement.
7.2 She went on to state that whilst the elections earlier this month were clearly very difficult, she believed their party record was strong and wished for her thanks for their achievements be put on record. Since the elections she had met with the Leaders of the other Groups and was grateful to them for entering into talks which she considered had been productive, helpful and focussed on how they might be able to work together.
7.3 Unfortunately discussions had focussed on areas of disagreement, in particular the future role of CIFCO and the location of the headquarters. The political asks of the opposition were not acceptable and therefore a consensus was unable to be reached.
7.4 She informed Members that the Conservative group had joined with Councillor Brewster to form an administration. The offer of a seat on Cabinet remained open to Councillor Eburne and Council Field should they wish to take it.
7.5 Councillor Morley said that in the coming months the administration would set out its priorities for the next 4 years. She went on to make two of her personal priorities, the first being the people we are here to serve. Having been a Cabinet Member for Organisational Development with responsibility for customer services she had learnt very quickly how important it was to put residents and service users at the heart of everything and wished to pay tribute to the dedicated and hard working staff. As Leader she would make this a fundamental pillar of work in Mid Suffolk, involving people in decision making, improving access to services or designing services for their needs and improving the Council’s communication with the public to be far better and proactive.
7.6 Her second priority being a review of the Joint Local Plan stating that it is vital that we ensure that housing and building development in our district is where and how we want it to be. It is important to our residents that we get it right.
7.7 Councillor Morley announced Councillor Gerard Brewster as the Deputy Leader, and informed Members that she was still working on the Cabinet Member appointments.
7.8 Councillor Eburne welcomed Councillor Morley as Leader, and informed Members that in the run up to this meeting that she had asked for meetings in order to develop a consensus across the chamber, but this had not been taken up, stating that she would have liked a seat on Cabinet, provided it was an equal basis, with a portfolio. She went on to say that she would like to see much more investment in housing in this area, to put a hold on CIFCO, bring money back here and invest in housing and asked if that could be one of the first priorities of this Council?
7.9 In response Councillor Morley informed Members that discussions around CIFCO are not up for debate.
7.10 Councillor Otton commented that it was disappointing that parties were unable to come to an agreement and asked whether Councillor Morley would reconsider if she felt it would be advantageous to go back and have a discussion with the group leaders from the other groups?
7.11 In response Councillor Morley said the door was open for discussion.
7.12 Councillor Field raised a question around CIFCO, asking whether they totally believed that they had fully assessed the risks at present in the commercial market in particular the retail market, as we see the continuous collapsing of retail operations?
7.13 In response Councillor Brewster replied that he was satisfied that the risk is properly managed. Top experts in that field are providing the advice and the risks are being managed.
7.14 Councillor Stringer asked whether consideration had been given to the staff, as it is the staff who do the work on these programmes?
7.15 Councillor Morley responded that she has given this consideration.
7.16 Councillor Hicks raised the question as to why Councillor Eburne and Councillor Field did not want to take up the offer to join the Cabinet, without a portfolio?
7.17 Councillor Morley stated that the areas where agreement couldn’t be reached were around CIFCO and moving back to Needham Market. Fundamental decisions which were in the opposition’s manifesto.
7.18 Councillor Stringer raised a point of order wanting to clarify that it was he who had written the Green Party Manifesto and that it did not state that the headquarters were going back to Needham Market, rather that the depot site would be used to build an office using some of the underspend of last year for front line staff.