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Turmoil as unitary leaders quit over 'ego' and 'bickering'

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Isle of Wight Council has been plunged into turmoil by the resignations of its leader and his deputy, who have accused other councillors of “bickering” and egoism.

Leader Jonathan Bacon and deputy Steve Stubbings, both from the Island Independents group, pointed to the council’s acute financial problems and lack of help from the government.

Cllr Bacon told LGC: “Overall there are 40 members and the majority want to play politics and argue rather than do something.

“Every council is facing cuts but here we have 26% to 27% of the population aged over 65 and the big factor is we are an island, it increases cost.

“For example, we have to maintain a full fire service as you can’t just have something drive across the boundary to help; [it’s the] same with health and social care.

“The government will not recognise that. They are telling us to impose a 3% precept for social care on hard-pressed taxpayers and if we don’t they’ll say, ‘Well, we offered you money but you wouldn’t take it’.”

In his official statement Cllr Bacon said it was “difficult enough to deal with this situation” but added “it becomes even more difficult when many of those charged with that duty would rather play political games than take on that responsibility”. He said: “I am of the firm opinion that we now have a situation amongst elected members where party politics and ego are being put before the concerns and issues of island people.

“Elsewhere in the chamber this has been the case for a long time, however I am sad to say that I think this has now crept into the independent group where there is a small element who are now more focussed in that way.”

He said there was no longer enough councillors willing to support his approach as a majority “would rather play games and fit into the negative stereotype of the self-centred, bickering, power seeking politician”.

Both Cllr Bacon and Cllr Stubbings remain councillors. All councillors are up for re-election in May.

Chief executive John Metcalfe said an election for a new leader would take place at a full council meeting on Wednesday until which executive members would remain in post.

Conservative group leader Dave Stewart said: “This has come as a complete surprise. If called on at full council I anticipate a change.”

The council has complained that cuts have hit it disproportionately hard because of its geographical isolation and large ageing population.

Isle of Wight has also been part of lengthy but inconclusive talks about securing more resources through a devolution bid by Solent councils.

Isle of Wight’s political composition is:

16 Island Independents

14 Conservatives

5 Individual Members Group

2 Labour

2 Ukip

1 Liberal Democrat

 

 

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