Councillor Vikki Slade was removed from her position as BCP Council and Unity Alliance Leader last week after a vote of no confidence succeeded with a majority of 39 votes to 33.
The motion, put forward by Conservative Group Leader and Councillor Drew Mellow, swiftly followed the departure of Councillor Julie Bagwell from the Unity Alliance. Cllr Bagwell had cited “a lack of strategic leadership in the delivery of required policy and…a complete absence of a ‘transformation plan for the people of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.'”
For now, the council is being fronted by its former Deputy Leader, Councillor Mark Howell, but a meeting will be held next week on 1 October 2020 to elect a new leader. Currently, the BCP Council consists of 75 members, of which 36 represent the Conservative Party, making it likely that the new leader will be a member of the Conservative Party.
It is not the first time Drew Mellow has attempted to oust Councillor Slade from her position; he initially called for her removal in June, a motion she survived by a narrow victory of 38 votes to 37 relying on the Chairman’s vote to keep her position.
In placing his motion for Councillor Slade’s removal on 15 September, Councillor Mellor stated:
“In recent weeks, a number of decisions have been taken by the BCP Council Administration without proper consultation with the residents and businesses who will be affected. Ward Councillors were only consulted or informed, once plans were set to be implemented. This has resulted in a high level of public frustration and mistrust.
It is clear that the “Unity Alliance” administration is making decisions and plans without due regard to resident, business, visitor or councillor comment or suggestions.
This Council therefore has no confidence in the current administration to deliver for the residents of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole and seeks the removal from office of its Leader.”
In a statement issued on 16 September 2020, Councillor Slade spoke of her pride in the BCP Council and Unity Alliance achievements during her time as Council Leader: “In just 16 months we have delivered a corporate strategy, a balanced budget, a fresh start for our children’s work and a climate plan. We have opened up how the council works engaging and exciting people about local government and democracy and we have started the process of transformation.
“We have created new programmes of work to alleviate food poverty, build young peoples engagement and created a community resilience project that’s been lauded as best practice and we have shown that when you treat homeless people well you can change their lives for the better”.
Speaking about her disappointment in the motion against her leadership, she added: “Had we not seen the deaths of two of our colleagues, the opportunity to bring a vote against us would not have come about and we would have weathered the storm. It still makes me angry that the leader of the Conservative group was so impatient to get his hands on power that he could not even pause to give time to grieve their loss, bringing the vote at the first opportunity – not once but twice.
“That shows poor judgement and insensitivity and I hope that he knows that we will be holding him to account on every decision that he makes. Most of us were uncomfortable in the extreme about how this council would be run and we showed that it could be different. We will continue to demonstrate that in whatever capacity we work going forward.”