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Motion of no confidence in North Norfolk District Council leader - the result

PUBLISHED: 21:45 16 November 2016 | UPDATED: 21:45 16 November 2016

North Norfolk District Council leader Tom FitzPatrick.

North Norfolk District Council leader Tom FitzPatrick.

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The Conservative leader of North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) has comfortably survived a vote of no confidence brought by his opposition counterpart.

All-change among council’s top officers

Councillors voted to keep Nick Baker and Steve Blatch in the new jointly-held top council officer post, as both corporate directors and heads of paid service.

The pair have been filling the role since chief executive Sheila Oxtoby’s departure.

The change will save the council £240,000 a year.

Mr Blatch was also appointed to Mrs Oxtoby’s roles as returning officer and electoral registration officer.

He and Mr Baker will each receive between £68,524 and £79,642 as corporate directors, plus an extra £15,741 apiece in their shared head of paid service role.

Duncan Ellis was appointed head of finance, replacing Karen Sly, one of the three who now work for Great Yarmouth Borough Council.

Liberal Democrat leader Sarah Butikofer proposed the motion at this evening’s full council meeting .

She claimed that under Tom FitzPatrick’s leadership the council was “too autocratic” and did not work inclusively with the opposition and officers for the good of north Norfolk residents.

But Tory councillor colleagues, including Mr FitzPatrick’s brother Vincent, spoke strongly in his defence and the motion was defeated by 26 votes to 13.

Mrs Butikofer said her motion was prompted by the way the council did things, rather than what it did.

Sarah Butikofer, Liberal Democrat opposition leader on North Norfolk District Council.Sarah Butikofer, Liberal Democrat opposition leader on North Norfolk District Council.

She alluded to the loss of three senior officers, including former chief executive Sheila Oxtoby, “in one afternoon.”

The trio resigned in September to take up new roles with Great Yarmouth Borough Council.

Such an “extraordinary situation” said much about the strength of feeling among NNDC senior officers and the way the council conducted its business, according to Mrs Butikofer.

She was also angry that the council’s cabinet had approved proposals to do away with the post of chief executive following Mrs Oxtoby’s departure.

Steve Blatch, new joint corporate director and head of paid service with North Norfolk District Council.Steve Blatch, new joint corporate director and head of paid service with North Norfolk District Council.

“It could be argued that such a radical restructuring should have been brought to full council for debate before appointments were made,” she said.

She claimed she had been approached by parish councils, community groups, a town council and individuals who felt the council no longer listened or tried to address their concerns.

But Conservative Sue Arnold said it was “shameful” to bring such a motion against someone who worked so tirelessly for the district.

Mr FitzPatrick was “not perfect” but she listed his achievements, including “excellent financial management”, no increase in council tax for five years, two new enterprise zones, the way in which the 2013 storm surge was handled, a record number of new affordable homes and the success of the Big Society Fund.

Nick Baker. new joint corporate director and head of paid service with North Norfolk District Council.Nick Baker. new joint corporate director and head of paid service with North Norfolk District Council.

Vincent FitzPatrick added: “This motion flies in the face of the democratic vote 18 months ago when the electorate decided to return a Conservative administration with a healthy majority, based on the record of the previous four years. Tom was leader for three of them.”

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