Mansfield District Council cabinet’s war of words

MANSFIELD District Council’s announcement of a new cabinet was overshadowed yesterday by dramatic disputes over party representation.

Independent Mayor Tony Egginton unveiled the seven-strong team after days of speculation, initially naming Labour’s newly-elected Coun Philip Shields as portfolio holder for the environment.

But he failed to appear at the official unveiling and by 4pm Labour officials were stating he had reconsidered and would not take the post.

This left the big-hitting positions at the authority filled with Independent members save for Coun Mick Colley, who last week broke away from the official council Labour group under the banner of ‘March 2011, Labour Group’ in protest at the way a new leader had been elected.

Labour said the cabinet was short on their members because it objected to how the mayor had recruited it.

Mr Egginton said he tried to work in the best interests of the town in making the decisions.

“We’ve come to an executive decision, we will have some challenging times, not just this year, but for the next four years,” he said at yesterday’s unveiling.

“We’ve got to come out with what I think is the best fit for moving Mansfield forward.”

But Labour, who are the ruling party in the chamber with 25 seats, said Mr Egginton should have held more talks, with party officials discouraging their members from taking up offers from the mayor for a place on the policy top table.

Mr Egginton, as an elected executive mayor, is not obliged to fulfil representation quotas when using his power to hire a cabinet.

Labour group leader Martin Lee claimed the process had not been handled fairly.

“We would like the Mayor to re-start negotiations. He needs to come and talk to us and negotiate properly,” he said.

“At the end of the day we command a two-thirds majority.”

Added Mansfield Labour party chair Steve Yemm: “We’ve been forced into it and would have preferred a partnership agreement. We are not prepared to do it purely on the mayor dictating how it should be done.”

In a statement the group said it thought the mayor was “unwilling to recognise the new reality in Mansfield” following the 5th May elections.

Mr Sheilds could not be reached for comment yesterday afternoon.

Added Mr Egginton: “I’m extremely disappointed. We’ve got things that need resolving and I’ve got to provide leadership. Their people are not being given the chance to stand for positions.

“Labour’s actions are all about politics and not people; they are only interested in what’s in their own rule book.”

Mr Egginton re-appointed Roger Sutcliffe as deputy mayor and portfolio holder for resources.

Andrew Tristram becomes corporate portfolio holder, Kate Allsop holds regeneration, Derek Evans takes one of what are now two housing cabinet roles, heading up strategy, with Mick Colley taking housing services. Mick Barton heads public protection, with Mr Egginton saying he would monitor environment until a replacement for Mr Shields is found.

At last week’s full council meeting, at which the cabinet announcement was originally expected, Sally Higgins was appointed council chair.