Council leader accused of operating 'small cabal'

North Norfolk District Councillors with Sarah Butikofer and Christopher Cushing inset

North Norfolk District Council's leader was accused of not being open by opposition councillors - Credit: Archant

A council leader faced accusations of picking favourites, failing to be open and a "lack of dynamism" by opposition councillors.

The Liberal Democrat North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) leader Sarah Butikofer and her cabinet colleagues faced a series of accusations by Conservative councillors at Wednesday evening's council meeting.

Christopher Cushing and Nigel Dixon proposed a series of recommendations against the leader and cabinet after they felt the council's recent annual meeting had become a political event, rather than a ceremonial one.

Christopher Cushing, North Norfolk district councillor. Picture: Supplied by Christopher Cushing

Christopher Cushing, North Norfolk district councillor. Picture: Supplied by Christopher Cushing - Credit: Archant

They said: annual meetings should have no political statements; that the council needed to show "dynamism, creative thinking and leadership"; that the council should deliver competent governance; and govern openly and transparently.

Mr Cushing accused them of not meeting the standards of Norfolk's Tory councils, that some cabinet members did not know their briefs and said the cabinet was selected for loyalty over talent.

Both Mr Cushing and Mr Dixon said they had learned about NNDC developments, like delays to the Reef leisure centre, through the EDP rather than the council, saying it showed the council was not open. 

Sarah Bütikofer, North Norfolk District Council leader.

Sarah Bütikofer, North Norfolk District Council leader. - Credit: NNDC

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Mr Cushing's accusations were dismissed by Ms Butikofer and her cabinet colleagues. 

Ms Butikofer said making an annual meeting non-political would be difficult given the nature of the work they did and it would be unusual for a leader not to report on events. 

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She said: "I'm a little surprised he wants to be reminded of the clean-up jobs we have had to do since his party lost control of this local authority." 

Cabinet members said some of their successes included the North Walsham Heritage Action Zone, The Reef, and announced they had been nominated for two awards. 

Ms Butikofer added that cabinet positions, including leader, were elected by the group, not chosen by her.

This was dismissed by Mr Cushing, who said he suspected votes were given to candidates she wanted. 

North Norfolk District Council is doing an IT upgrade, meaning its local search departmet is closed

North Norfolk District Council - Credit: Archant

The Conservatives found an ally in recent Lib Dem defector and former cabinet member, Greg Hayman, who left the party in May.

"This administration needs to up its game, there is no clear direction provided by leadership," he said.

"In my time in cabinet, there was very little openness, decisions appear to be taken by a small cabal."  

This was leapt on by Mr Cushing, who called it "jaw-dropping", and showed dysfunction.

The recommendations were defeated. 

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