Peterborough LibDems – Cereste on Trial

08:20 Tuesday 17th June 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[P]AUL STAINTON: So it was a busy old AGM at Peterborough City Council last night. As we mentioned earlier, Marco Cereste is still the Leader. One of the other big announcements to come out of it last night was the Council voted unanimously in favour of following in Cambridgeshire County Council’s footsteps and looking into switching to the committee system. It’s an idea that’s been championed by the LibDem Group. Nick Sandford is their Leader. Nick. morning.
NICK SANDFORD: Morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: We’ll get onto that in a moment, but first of all many people unhappy with you this morning for siding with Marco Cereste. Why did you?

NICK SANDFORD: It was a matter really of practicality. We looked at the arithmetic. Although the Conservatives, technically they don’t control the Council, they’re actually only one vote short. Even is Marco had been removed, even if the motion had succeeded and he was removed, there would then be the question of what alternative administration would replace him. We’ve actually got four opposition groups, of which the Independent Group is split into a number of different factions, and it would simply have been impossible to have put together an alternative administration.
PAUL STAINTON: And you voted with him as well because you’re getting what you wanted, aren’t you? You’re getting a look at the committee system. So you’ve compromised your principles.
NICK SANDFORD: There was no pact or deal. In fact one of the comments made at the meeting was that in between the elections and Annual Council I never even had a conversation with Marco. It was .. I think it’s incorrect to say that we supported the Conservatives. We actually had a motion on the table to remove Marco Cereste as Leader. The basic principle that the Council tends to work on is if you’ve got a group that’s by far the largest group, then the person who is Leader of that group should form the administration.
PAUL STAINTON: But you didn’t vote against him, did you? So de facto you were in support. So you must be happy with the outcome though, because you’ve got what you want, and you’ve got this look at the committee system.
NICK SANDFORD: Yes, we’ve got a .. there was actually two motions on the table. There was one from councillor Harrington to move immediately to a committee system. Unfortunately even though at the meeting the Conservatives were talking about consensus, they actually used a procedural device to prevent councillor Harrington even having a chance to put that motion forward. So I think we really do need the Conservatives to practice what they preach.
PAUL STAINTON: Can you see them ever introducing a committee system and letting you have some semblance of control?
NICK SANDFORD: Well when we discussed this at the Group Leaders’ Meeting there was a compromise proposal put forward that .. there are people in both the Labour Group and the Conservative Group who actually quite like the cabinet system. We’re absolutely clear that we want to move to the committee system, because we want a system ..
PAUL STAINTON: It’s not going to happen though, is it? You can look at it all you like. It will just get kicked into the long grass, won’t it?
NICK SANDFORD: We’re going to have a working group, a constitutional working group, with people from all parties on it. And I hope that the people who go to that working group are not going with preconceived ideas, but will have a look. Because you could go to a pure committee system like we had previously. There’s also various hybrid systems that you have.
PAUL STAINTON: I admire your positivity. I do, I really do. But can you ever see the day when Marco is going to relinquish control?
NICK SANDFORD: Well I think what we’ve said is we couldn’t remove him at the moment, but ..
PAUL STAINTON: I mean in terms of decision-making. You really … ? Can you see him allowing committees to be the way forward?
NICK SANDFORD: Over the next twelve months, because one of the things we have in Peterborough we actually have elections once every twelve months, so basically Marco is on trial. He’s made a lot of promises. We’re going to have a working group looking at the committee system. He’s going to set up a working group to consult opposition parties on the Council finances. So if he fails to implement all of these things, it’s actually now in only about ten months or so, people will have a chance to go to the polls. If they return a Council where the Conservative Group is much smaller, then it may be possible then under those circumstances to actually have an alternative administration.
PAULagainst him if you need to I suppose, will you?
NICK SANDFORD: Yes certainly we will .. as I say there are no .. there’s actually no coalition between the LibDems and the Conservatives. If they carry on putting forward proposals like increasing officers’ pay by 25%, we will vote against that. If they carry on with some of these grandiose schemes which Marco has a tendency to put forward, we will vote against them. If he’s prepared to work in a consensual way, then that is how we think the Council should run.
PAUL STAINTON: OK Nick, thank you very much. Nick Sandford, the Leader of the LibDems on Peterborough City Council.