New Leadership Team At FDC
I’ve been away for a week and in my absence the new leader of Fenland District has been announced and his choice of top positions laid out by the Wisbech Standard here.
This is interesting, since it takes a meeting of Full Council to elect a new Leader and that hasn’t happened yet. But I guess what the Wisbech Standard is saying is that its got wind of what new Leader the Conservative Group has chosen and is presuming a foregone conclusion. So, not entirely accurate, but still probably a fair assumption.
The “New Leader” (to be confirmed at Full Council) of FDC is the veteran Councillor, Chris Seaton and the newspaper goes into some depth about the people he has chosen as his leadership team.
I feel cautiously optimistic with the news as reported. I’ll be honest, I’d expected Chris Seaton as Leader would be just the same as John Clark as Leader, with broadly the same faces and broadly the same choices. I have nothing against John Clark, who I always found to be a genuine man with honest intentions, but I am certainly one of the Conservative group who has hoped for some fresh ideas and a new approach.
It would appear that I have underestimated Cllr. Seaton. Because, against all expectations (on my part, anyway) he has made some fairly radical changes. Cllr. Mark Buckton in for the Leisure and Young People portfolio is a good choice, I think. Cllr Buckton has long been an underused individual whose talents were crying out for a bigger role. Tourism, in particular, needs a shot in the arm urgently and I think he may well be able to gain some ground in this area.
Even more importantly, Cllr Dee Laws is taking on the Planning portfolio. In my opinion this is an inspirational choice. Planning is an area which FDC has really struggled with in the last couple of years and given how important it is for our communities that the correct forward-thinking decisions are taken, getting the right innovative person in place is a key consideration.
Cllr. Ann Hay takes on the Finance portfolio. I don’t know Cllr Hay very well and I think she probably sits on a different “wing” of Conservatism to me, but her reputation is of somebody whose skills would be well-suited to this role and I am sure she will excel. I’d like to see a lot more challenge of figures presented by Officers and I hope she will lead on this.
I would have liked to see Chris Boden in a Cabinet role. Nevertheless, by making him Chairman of Overview & Scrutiny, Cllr Seaton has made a very smart placement. Cllr. Boden is an analytical thinker of the first order and under his guidance I would expect O&S to take on a sharp, focused and insightful direction. The purpose of any O&S committee is to challenge, review and act as a critical friend. Run properly, a strong O&S Committee will catch poor policy early and put it right or stop it outright, amend, suggest, propose and consider in such a way as to make decisions more robust, more accurate and more likely to deliver decent outcomes. A strong O&S Committee can make life uncomfortable for a weak Leader and it shows a strength of character to put somebody like Cllr Boden in charge of it – it represents a real desire to see the job done well and done right. Very commendable, in my view.
I was away during the week this all happened and my information is gleaned from reading the Wisbech Standard – which may yet turn out not to be 100% correct. But if it all pans out as the newspaper claims then I would think that a very positive outcome. Cllr Seaton appears to have understood what needed changing as a priority and what did not, and has taken decisions that will earn him some grumpiness in some quarters, but in my opinion are pretty good choices as a starting point for a new direction of healthy travel*.
*I should stress that you should read no implicit criticism of previous office-holders in my writing. Each Councillor serves as best they can, in the positions as assigned by the Council Leader. I have no doubt that the previous office holders worked hard and did the best they could. Nevertheless, I reserve the right to the opinion that these are positive changes for the Council and for Fenland as a whole. There remains a lot of work to be done, of course. And this new team will be tested by challenges and circumstances. I wish them all the best.