Waveney District Council

Legal view of Council stalemate

Published on 16th May 2011

Lowestoft Town Hall

Following the District elections, which saw the Conservative and Labour Groups each secure 23 seats, Waveney's Monitoring Officer has issued a Legal Opinion that provides a framework for a resolution.

The Monitoring Officer for Waveney District Council, Arthur Charvonia, has today issued a formal opinion on the process to elect a Leader and Chairman at Annual Council on May 25.

In it, he confirms that 2010-11 Chairman Alan Duce - though no longer a Councillor - will chair the meeting until the election of a new Chairman and, should this particular vote be tied, he will have the 'casting vote'. The new Chairman, once elected, will then preside over the vote to elect the Leader of the Council.

The Council moved to all out elections this year and the results for all 48 seats altered the political balance of the Council as follows:

23 Conservatives
23 Labour
1 Green
1 Independent

Both of the main Groups have sought to form alliances to help establish a working administration and, as a result, the Green Councillor has confirmed his intention to work with the Labour Group, while the Independent Councillor has aligned himself to the Conservative Group.

Given that both main Groups will now seek to nominate a candidate for the Leadership of the Council, it is highly likely that the result will be a tie, with 24 votes for each candidate. Therefore, in such circumstances, it is the Chairman of the Council who exercises a casting vote.

The election of a Chairman and vice-Chairman is the first, important piece of business for the Annual Council meeting. At the Council's Annual Meeting in May 2010, Councillor Duce was elected to be Chairman until the election of a successor at the Annual Meeting in May 2011.

Understandably, therefore, the election of the Chairman (which precedes the Leadership vote) holds the key to determining who might become Leader. Again, the election of the Chairman (given the significance for the later election of the Leader) is also likely to be tied at 24 votes for each.

Therefore, the matter of concern for the Monitoring Officer has been to establish who should preside over the election of the Chairman of the Council. This is a matter of great importance given that the Monitoring Officer's legal opinion may, in effect, determine the political leadership of the Council for the next four years (barring any by-elections).

However, as his legal Opinion indicates, this matter has been resolved and the Leaders of both main political groups have been informed.

Formal Opinion of the Monitoring Office

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