A Tory who is widely tipped to throw his hat into the ring to become the party’s candidate at next year’s general election has given a stinging rebuke to his political colleagues on Ryedale District Council.
Cllr Edward Legard took exception to the Conservative Group’s decision to use their majority to appoint party members as chairman and vice chairman at Thursday’s annual meeting – instead saying the role should be shared among all political groups.
The Conservative Group has consistently held both posts since the last district elections in 2011 when it won its majority. In previous years, the roles of chairman and vice chairman had been shared between the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Independent councillors on a round robin basis.
“This is addressed to all the group on a matter of principal,” said Cllr Legard. “The role of chairman and vice chairman are apolitical. The role is to promote Ryedale outside of these four walls and throughout the district, to represent one and all of us and to help chair debate in an evenhanded way in this chamber.
“In the past we have had chairmen and vice chairman from all parties. In my view that helps enhance Ryedale District Council and promote it beyond and show for all that the chairmanship really is a politically neutral role.”
Cllr Legard called on all chairmen and vice chairmen to be non-political appointments in future.
He stressed that his views had nothing to do with the selection of Cllrs Luke Ives and Steven Arnold, himself a former chairman, into the posts last week.
In a further nod that he intends to put his name forward to become the Thirsk and Malton Conservative Party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for the 2015 General Election, Cllr Legard also revealed publicly that this coming year would be his last on Ryedale District Council.
The party is expected to chose its candidate in the coming weeks.
Liberal Party leader John Clark, who stood in the 2011 General Election, said: “I feel restricted in what I can say because I have not decided whether I am going to stand next year and feel limited in what I can express!
“I think rotating the chairs is the sensible way forward. It has not been that way since the Tory group took control.”
Cllr Lindsay Burr, Liberal Democrat, said: “When the Tory group took control of this council, the then leader stood up and said the most important thing is we are all going to work together. That is something that has absolutely diminished in this council.
“The benefit of having different people on the top table of whatever position is we take a balanced view.
“The people want to see that we are trying to work together.”
Cllr Linda Cowling added: “A few of you today have made a lot about the politics of this position and I think you are mistaken about what we are saying – it is not a political position.”