Unlikely alliances at council meeting

By IW Observer.co.uk May 20, 2022
Cllr Critchison signs the declaration and acceptance of chairmanship

Gifts of cake were not enough to sweeten the atmosphere at Wednesday evening’s bad-tempered annual meeting of the Isle of Wight Council, which threw up some unlikely alliances.

Green councillor, Claire Critchison, was elected as chairwoman after controversial councillor, Geoff Brodie, said he did not wish to stand again for the position, adding that he is not a Christian and does not support the monarchy, both attributes he claimed are expected in the role. He also said he had received abuse and threats from the public.

However, Cllr Critchison, who has served for the past year as vice-chairwoman, faced a rival contender for the local authority’s top civic position, Cllr Chris Quirk.

Cllr Critchison was nominated by council leader, Cllr Lora Peacey-Wilcox. However, Tory leader, Cllr Joe Robertson, nominating Cllr Quirk, said it would be fair for his group to have a turn at the top job as there is no overall control of the council. Independent Labour councillor, Geoff Brodie, supported the Tory nomination. Cllr Critchison won by 20 votes to 18.

The role of vice-chairman also went to an Alliance member; Cllr Michael Lilley beat Cllr Quirk by the same margin, 20 votes to 18.

Cllr Robertson revealed during the debate that Cllr Critchison had sent cake to the Tory group room prior to the meeting. He said that the cake had been tasty, “but not tasty enough to get our vote on this occasion”. It later emerged that the chocolate cake had been sent not by Cllr Critchison, but by Cllr Jarman to mark the anniversary of the Alliance group taking control of the council on May 26 last year.

Cakes for the Tories, staff and the Alliance Group from Cllr Jarman

Prior to the meeting there had been negotiations between the two groups seeking to reach agreement on a number of posts. The Tories wanted the council chairmanship and also that of the Corporate Scrutiny and Planning Committees in return for not supporting Cllr Brodie to remain as council chairman.

In the end the Tories did not get any of the roles they were seeking, with the Corporate Scrutiny chairman remaining as Cllr Richard Quigley and Cllr John Medland taking over at the helm of the Planning Committee.

Cllr Robertson said after the meeting: “Scrutiny of the Alliance-led council is based on double hatting councillors and dishing out jobs for votes. The ‘opposition’ chairman of the Corporate Scrutiny Committee voted through all the Alliance committee nominations.

“They have given up on reverse proportionality on scrutiny committees even though the leader counted it as one of her achievements last year. Nobody will be fooled by empty words of wanting to work cross-party and be open and transparent. It is actions that count.”

Cllr Critchison thanked those who elected her. She said it was a huge honour and would continue to develop the important role over the next year.

She also said she would introduce a multi-faith element to the reflection sessions held before meetings, so differences and diversity could be celebrated.