Gateshead Council today and we had another discussion about the constitutional amendment to move us from the system in which the leader and cabinet are appointed every year by full council to one in which the leader is appointed only once and this person appoints the cabinet and remains in office until such time as his/her constituents turf him/her out as a councillor. This is a system that is imposed by the government but there is some leeway giving the council scope to decide how to sack a council leader.
And it is on that point that disagreements emerged again this afternoon. Labour have introduced a system in which a two-thirds majority is needed in council to sack the Leader. We argue that this is excessive and a simple majority should be used. If it's good enough for a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister, it's good enough for a leader of a council.
The effect of requiring a two-thirds vote is that in Gateshead Labour could lose an election, but as long as they have over a third of the seats, the Leader, and therefore Labour, will be able to continue to in office and run the council in the face of a Lib Dem majority on the authority. Hence the nickname we gave to the amendment, the Mick Henry Life President Amendment (Mick Henry being leader of the council). Alas, Mick jokingly said he liked the idea of being life president. The amendment is also dubbed the Mick Henry Longevity clause.
We did have an amendment on this but it was ruled out of order by the Mayor. Nevertheless we could still speak to the report which I did, despite repeated interruptions by Mick Henry. Given my previous comments on being interrupted by the Leader, my thanks go to Mick for his efforts to raise my profile within my group.
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