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Motion submitted by Sudbury councillors calling for resignation of Babergh District Council leader John Ward defeated

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A motion calling for the resignation of a Suffolk council leader failed to get enough votes during a tense debate on Tuesday evening.

Labour councillors for Sudbury Trevor Cresswell and Alison Owen put forward a motion to Babergh District Council’s full council meeting on Tuesday night calling for the immediate resignation of Conservative leader John Ward.

In the submission, Mr Cresswell highlighted four issues which had prompted the motion – the abandoned plans to change the council’s name to South Suffolk District Council, plans to pursue a hotel on the former swimming pool site at Belle Vue Park in Sudbury, the move of the customer access point in Sudbury and the recent controversial decision to reduce free parking across the district that will come into force later in 2021.

Cllr John Ward is the leader of Babergh District Council. Picture: Mark Westley.
Cllr John Ward is the leader of Babergh District Council. Picture: Mark Westley.

The motion saw 10 votes in favour of his resignation, 20 against and two councillor abstaining.

Mr Ward, leader of a rainbow administration featuring representation from Conservative, Independent and Liberal Democrat councillors, said he had listened to public opinion and compromised on issues such as the parking plans and Belle Vue.

He added: “We operate a cabinet governance model here and executive decisions are made by cabinet. I made sure it is made up of strong individuals from three groups in this council.”

Independent councillor Alastair McCraw said that the council’s decision making was not driven by one person, and said that those decisions raised in the motion had been assessed by the authority’s scrutiny committee, adding: “I think we have lost a sense of perspective”.

Conservative Peter Beer questioned the motion when the Labour councillors who lodged it “did not speak up and argue against the parking [plans] in Sudbury,” during the cabinet decision meeting earlier this month.

Conservative Jan Osborne said: “Councillor Ward is a man of commitment, integrity and knowledge.

“He works many, many hours for the good of Babergh and its people.

“You may not always agree with him, but that doesn’t make him a bad leader.”

However, others supported the motion.

Mr Cresswell said that he did not have a problem with Mr Ward on a personal level but added: “I just feel that some of the things that have been done haven’t been done right.

“We could have sat and done nothing but I have so many people that come up to me in the street that are absolutely cheesed off with the present situation in our town.”

Green group leader Robert Lindsay said that the “cabinet system isn’t working” and cited his group’s four councillors as not having a seat at the administration table as a problem when “23 per cent of Babergh voters voted Green”.

Independent councillor Margaret Maybury – a former cabinet member under Mr Ward’s leadership – and Conservative Sue Ayres both cited comments from residents in their wards questioning Mr Ward’s leadership.

The current council comprises 14 Conservatives, nine Independents, four Greens, three Liberal Democrats and two Labour councillors.

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