Jonathan Owen set to take charge of East Riding of Yorkshire Council at Brid Spa meeting

The new leader of the Conservatives on East Riding Council is set to formally take charge of the authority as divisions following the toppling of his predecessor rage on.

Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 9:10 am
Updated Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 12:58 pm
Cllr Jonathan Owen, of East Wolds and Coastal ward, is set to be voted in as leader of East Riding Council at its annual meeting on Thursday (tomorrow).

Cllr Jonathan Owen, of East Wolds and Coastal ward, is set to be voted in as leader of East Riding Council at its annual meeting on Thursday (tomorrow).

Meanwhile, Cllr David Nolan, leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition, said his group would be seeking changes to make council meetings more “democratic”, including allowing residents to expand on public questions.

The annual meeting is also set to see Councillor John Holtby elected as deputy following a Conservative meeting which saw him and Cllr Owen replace councillors Richard Burton and Mike Stathers.

Councillors are also set to chose the new chairman and vice chairman, equivalent of a mayor and deputy, to replace current office holders councillors Pat Smith and Nigel Wilkinson respectively.

East Riding members are due to meet at Bridlington Spa on Thursday, forgoing Beverley’s County Hall to allow for coronavirus social distancing at the in person meeting.

The council meeting will follow what is believed to have been a fractious Conservative gathering.

Thursday’s meeting is expected to be more procedural.

It is due to see Cllr Owen’s picks for cabinet members appointed and the new chairs and members of council committees confirmed.

Councillors Kerri Harold and David Elvidge, both of Minster and Woodmansey ward, are understood to be among those picked as portfolio holders.

Cllr Victoria Aitken is believed to be in the running to replace long-standing Children’s Services portfolio holder Cllr Julie Abraham.

Cllr Owen previously said that jobs, the economy, housing, devolution and the East Riding’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic were among his priorities for office.

He has since said he plans to lay out his agenda for his tenure as council leader after he is formally voted in.

A group source said the future of devolution talks with Hull City Council and of policies aiming to address fallout from the pandemic continue to stoke divisions inside the group.

Some Conservatives are still understood to be mulling a splinter group but all are set to approve the appointment of councillors Owen and Holtby or face expulsion.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Nolan has outlined has group’s agenda for Thursday, seeking changes on how the council chair is appointed, the format for speaking and public questions.

The opposition leader said: “We’re aiming to make full council meetings more democratic, including by letting the public talk more about why they’re asking questions instead of just asking it which we think is wrong, we’ll be working with the Yorkshire Party on that.

“We also want leader and portfolio holders’ speeches to be shorter and open to more challenges, at the moment some of them can be death by PowerPoint.

“As a result of the pandemic and council meetings moving online there has been more interest from residents in them, so we should make them more interesting.

“At the moment we only get one or two public questions a year, the current system isn’t working.

“We’d also like to see the council chair elected on a proportional rotational basis, so with the council’s current makeup the Conservatives would get it for three years and we’d get it for one in a four year cycle.

“It’s supposed to be a non-political role but so far the appointments have all been Conservatives.”