Babergh leader quits as council debates sacking her over merger plans
PUBLISHED: 20:13 19 December 2017 | UPDATED: 20:22 19 December 2017
The embattled leader of Babergh council has stepped down from the role – just minutes before the start of a debate calling for her to be sacked.
Conservative Jennie Jenkins stepped down before the authority debated a call for her to be sacked as an element of a three-part motion which also called on the council to stop spending any money on the consultation over the proposed merger with Mid Suffolk Council.
Her supporters had feared that there could be enough Conservatives worried about the proposal to join the opposition and vote her out of office.
At the start of the meeting she said: “It is with great regret and huge sadness that I have decided to stand down as Leader of the Council with immediate effect.”
She said she hoped it would be possible to have a smooth handover – she had been planning to stand down in the New Year in any event.
“It is extremely disappointing that some Councillors have felt the need to bring the third paragraph of the Motion on the agenda; especially as I have made no secret of my intention to stand down as Leader of the Council in a couple of months.”
Mr Bavington said he had known Mrs Jenkins for many years – but it was time for her to stand down now. He said her cabinet had not been listening to concerns of backbenchers and the public about the merger proposals.
Babergh shares an administration with Mid Suffolk Council – but proposals for a political merger were rejected by voters in the district in 2011.
Recently the merger proposal has been revived – but without a guarantee that another referendum would take place. A public consultation process is currently underway.
Councillors were also angered about Babergh’s move away from its former headquarters in Hadleigh to its new offices at the county council’s headquarters in Ipswich where the joint administration is based.
There was also frustration among opposition councillors when legal officers and council chairman Peter Burgoyne said a new council leader could not be chosen before the next full meeting – in the meantime deputy leader Jan Osborne will be acting leader. The next meeting is scheduled for February – but an extraordinary meeting could be held next month.