Alan Duce, the outgoing chairman of Waveney District Council, faces an unenviable responsibility if he decides to attend the annual meeting next week. Will he keep is party in power or will he enable the group that gained the larger share of the popular vote to form an administration? This unusual responsibility arises because the election earlier this month left the Suffolk council with 23 Conservative and 23 Labour members.
The sole Independent will support the Conservatives and the only Green will vote with Labour. But the Conservative/Independent candidates gained 40 per cent of the vote while the Labour/Green alliance got 49 per cent. The Conservatives controlled the council until the election.
After negotiations for Conservatives and Labour to share power failed, it became clear niether party could form a majority coalition. So the monitoring officer, Arthur Charvonia, a lawer, has had to delve into the constitution and law, to give an opinion on what should happen.
This is that the chairman of the council, Conservative Alan Duce, who is no longer a councillor, remains the chairman until the new chairman is elected at the next meeting on May 25. So while he will not be able to take part in the initial ballot for a new chairman he will have a casting vote.
He can use this whichever way he chooses. He can vote with his own party or the group with the larger share of the popular vote. Whichever way he votes it will mean that the new ruling group will be dependent on the casting vote of the Chairman who, as a sitting member, will also have a primary vote giving his or her party an effective majority of one.
But Mr Duce can refuse to attend the meeting (it would be understandable) in which case the vice-chairman, Cllr Patricia Flegg, a Conservative who was re-elected, would preside able to cast her own vote and a chair’s casting vote.