Suffolk: Colin Noble sacked from cabinet after challenging Mark Bee’s leadership
11:50 15 April 2014
Leadership challenger Colin Noble has been sacked from Suffolk County Council’s cabinet after failing to unseat Mark Bee in last week’s election.
He returned to the backbenches after an hour-long meeting at Endeavour House in Ipswich, but said it was clear in the first minute of the meeting that he would not be staying in the cabinet.
After the meeting he launched a broadside on the leadership of the county council – claiming that policy was made by the cabinet and senior council officers who then passed it to backbenchers to “rubber-stamp” decisions.
However his concerns were dismissed by Mr Bee, who said: “If he was so concerned about that, why didn’t he bring up those worries in cabinet?”
Mr Noble was cabinet member for finance until yesterday. He said: “I was sacked from the cabinet. As I said to my supporters before the vote, it was my intention to offer Mark a place in my cabinet had I won.”
He and his supporters had become concerned the way county council policy was developed.
He said: “We believe that the members of the council should debate policy and come up with proposals that are taken up by the cabinet and then implemented by the senior officers.
“At present we feel it is developed by the cabinet and senior officers, and then given to the backbenchers for them to approve.
“I believe it is best when policy is robustly debated before being adopted and taken forward to be implemented.”
Mr Noble also felt there had not been enough discussion about deep savings that would be needed over the next four years.
He said: “We are going to need to have a really important conversation with people over the next four years as we fulfil our pledge to freeze council tax bills.”
Mr Bee said Mr Noble had never brought up concerns about policy formulation within the cabinet.
The council leader said he had ensured backbenchers had a stronger role after being elected leader in 2011.
He added: “Before 2011 when I was a backbencher and Colin Noble was the main cheerleader for the New Strategic Direction there was no discussion about it with us – we were just told what was happening.
“There are many more opportunities for backbenchers to have a say on policy now – and there will be more changes to give them more involvement coming forward.”
He also rejected claims that the cuts had not been deep enough: “Everyone must be aware that we have to find £156 million of savings in the next four years. It was Colin Noble’s job to come up to develop a way of meeting those savings.”
Mr Bee has sent to all members of the Conservative group telling them of Mr Noble’s departure and thanking him for his contribution to the administration.
He is still looking at the political structure of the administration, and details of Mr Bee’s new cabinet are expected to be revealed after Easter.