You’re fired! New Fenland Council leader Chris Seaton rings in the changes and decides who he wants (and doesn’t want) at the top table
PUBLISHED: 15:43 16 February 2018 | UPDATED: 16:45 16 February 2018
New Fenland Council leader Chris Seaton has sacked two £8,500 a year cabinet members who backed him but handed the £8,000 a year scrutiny committee chairmanship to the man he defeated.
Removing both Councillor Michelle Tanfield and Councillor Will Sutton was the major surprise of Cllr Seaton’s new line up, revealed today. Some councillors were bemused, too, by his decision to remove veteran councillor Fred Yeulett – who planned to stand down next May- as chairman of the overview and scrutiny committee.
But it was his decision to replace Cllr Tanfield and Cllr Sutton that was regarded as the biggest upset even though both had been recently de-selected by the Conservatives in their Elm and Christchurch ward.
Cllr Tanfield has borne the brunt of much criticism for the tourism element of her portfolio that has at best been seen as lack lustre in recent years. The last meeting of the Fenland Tourism Board – whose meetings form part of Fenland Council responsibilities – was 11 months ago.
There were no official reports to the ‘board’ and as of today no minutes of then final meeting have been produced.
That is likely to change with Councillor Mark Buckton, now responsible for the leisure and young people’s portfolio. He is known to be passionate about tourism and a healthy lifestyle - two years ago he cycled 400 miles in four days to raise money for the East Anglian Air Ambulance.
There is growing speculation, too, that the council may re-visit the decision to hive off its leisure centres to a third party management group. The centres are thought to be doing much better than before and it could be some of the new cabinet members will press for more discussion to be given to the proposals.
However the change may be short lived – Cllr Buckton is standing down, voluntarily, next May. He plans a move to Norfolk.
There’s a new face too with Councillor Dee Laws taking over the neighbourhood planning portfolio from Cllr Sutton.
She will want to test remarks by local agents of a back log in the planning system for approving bigger applications – and will want to ensure all applications are verified quickly and decisions made within agreed time frames.
Cabinet has another female member on board with Councillor Ann Hay joining to take over the finance portfolio previously held by Cllr Seaton.
She won a county council seat last year at her first attempt and only entered politics in 2015 when she was elected unopposed to Fenland Council. She has a financial background having worked as an accountant for Chatteris firm MMUK Ltd for 11 years.
And she will be determined to ensure her home town gets the support she feels it needs.
“In Chatteris, we seem to be the lost part of Fenland, particularly in terms of transport, the state of our roads and education,” she said after winning her county seat last year.
Other roles in Cllr Seaton’s line up include his predecessor John Clark who becomes chairman of corporate governance – a £1,167 a role compared to the £16,509.36 special responsibility allowance he enjoyed as leader.