07:23 Monday 20th May 2013
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
PAUL STAINTON: The LibDems in Cambridgeshire have changed their leader, just days before a big meeting that will decide who will lead the County Council. Former Leader Kilian Bourke has been ousted and replaced by the newly elected councillor for Waterbeach Maurice Leeke. Cllr Leake no stranger to Shire Hall, he’s led the Liberal Democrats before. I’m pleased to say Maurice is with us now. Morning.
MAURICE LEEKE: Morning.
PAUL STAINTON: So the new man, a new broom. What’s gone on? Have you all fallen out?
MAURICE LEEKE: No. No. Quite the reverse. Kilian has done an excellent job for us over the last couple of years, and particularly over the last couple of weeks, with the discussions that have been going on since the changes in the County Council elections.
KILIAN BOURKE: So why get rid of him now then, if he’s doing such an excellent job?
MAURICE LEEKE: Well I think what the group was looking for was the experience that I can bring. No overall control may be a new situation for many on the Council, but this is my third experience on Cambridgeshire of working under no overall control. And the other thing is that I also have experience of working under the Committee system, which served local governments so well for over a century, and which we’re hoping to get back to, following tomorrow’s votes.
PAUL STAINTON: Are you sure there wasn’t a falling out over entering into a rainbow coalition with UKIP and Labour? Was that not the real reason behind this?
MAURICE LEEKE: No. No. I think we’re all agreed that that’s not the way forward for the County.
PAUL STAINTON: It’s not the way forward? You’re not going to do a deal with everybody else?
MAURICE LEEKE: No. No that’s not the idea at all. We all want to work constructively on the County Council, to continue to provide the services that the Council does, but that it’s a bit naive let’s say to think that we can all put our political differences aside, and go forward on a common manifesto.
PAUL STAINTON: So what are you going to do?
MAURICE LEEKE: We do have differences of opinion. We shall all present our ideas to the Council tomorrow. The most likely outcome has to be that the largest party will win, I suspect.
PAUL STAINTON: So the Conservatives will still be in overall control.
MAURICE LEEKE: I think that the Conservatives will be in .. well not in overall control, probably in minority control. But it is important that we do get changes to the way the Council operates, to reflect the fact that no party does have complete control of the Council.
PAUL STAINTON: So you’re hoping that because of the votes you’ve got, and UKIP and others, that you can get rid of the Cabinet system. Is that what you’re aiming for?
MAURICE LEEKE: That’s right. That’s right.
PAUL STAINTON: Just explain what you mean by that to people that perhaps don’t understand.
MAURICE LEEKE: I think people were familiar with the old system, where local government had committees to run the various services of the Council.And this gave all councillors the chance to participate, and to help in making the policies going forward, to air the political differences about the individual areas that the Council works in, and then to take forward proposals that had broad support. The Government decided just over ten years ago to scrap all that, move over to the Council (Cabinet?) system. It’s been quite a difficult time in local government since then, with the one party being dominant. And it has in some cases led to arrogance among the leading party.
PAUL STAINTON: Are you not tempted then, because of that arrogance, because of what’s happened in the past, to team up with everybody and drive the Tories out of control of the Council? It appears you’re just letting them win here. Are you?
MAURICE LEEKE: No. No. We’re saying that the largest party should have a large say in the running of the Council. After all, a lot of people do vote for the Conservatives. It wasn’t that they were totally rejected. But that power has to be tempered by the fact that they don’t have a majority. There are other opinions out there. And that all councillors should have a proper opportunity to play a reasonable part in taking the Council forward.
PAUL STAINTON: A few weeks ago Maurice you weren’t even part of the Council. Today you’re the Leader of the LibDems. Who knows? There may vote you as Leader of the Council. You never know. Tomorrow. Have you still got what it takes Maurice? Can you still remember what to do?
MAURICE LEEKE: I think I can. I think I can. I did twenty years on the Council before, and it was remarkable how soon it all came back to me, walking along the corridor.
PAUL STAINTON: (LAUGHS)
MAURICE LEEKE: The important thing is getting the job done. And I’ve been there before. I think I know what needs doing. And we’re hoping to play an important role in the Council in the future.
PAUL STAINTON: Well we’ll see what happens tomorrow Maurice. Maurice Leeke, the new Leader of the LibDems on Cambridgeshire County Council.