Row over motion leads to complaint by March councillor against leader of Cambridgeshire County Council
The former Conservative leader of Cambridgeshire County Council is threatening to report his successor to the standards board following a row over a motion at Tuesday's meeting.
The move stems from a row over what legal advice was given to Councillor Lucy Nethsingha, the new Liberal Democrat leader of the council, when the new 'rainbow coalition' took over running the authority and pushed through constitutional changes at its first meeting in May.
Conservative Councillor Steve Count, who led the council until his party lost the majority at the local elections in May, tried to put forward a motion on Tuesday that would, in his view, ratify those changes and protect the council from any potential legal action in the future.
Speaking after the meeting, which he and other Tories walked out of, Coun Count explained he and his party believed the decisions, which were pushed through under 'matters of urgency' at the annual meeting in May were not made in line with legislation and the council's constitution.
He said: "I brought my motion forward to ratify those decisions, not to challenge them, but to make it easier for the new administration and to safeguard the council from potential legal action in the future.
"If the decisions are challenged and are found to not be constitutional that will mean that every subsequent decision made would be open to serious challenge.
"We have had a situation in the past where a disgruntled party tried every possible legal challenge to get a decision overturned. If that were to happen now, then the council may be open to losing that sort of challenge and it could have serious repercussions."
Coun Count said by passing his motion the council would be ratifying the changes made in May and therefore securing them as having been legally made.
He said: "Basically I was offering the new administration a get out of jail free card, and they rejected it."
Coun Nethsingha said having had two sets of legal advice she was happy the decisions were valid and therefore did not need ratifying.
Coun Count claimed that during the meeting Coun Nethsingha had intimated she had received legal advice that had not been shared with the opposition which confirmed her view the decisions were legal.
But afterwards Coun Nethsingha denied she had received any extra advice and said: "At the time I was not sure what advice Coun Count had seen or not seen. But having since verified what he has been shown, he has seen the same advice as me."
However, she said there was precedence where legal advice is not always widely shared and pointed to that given over the so-called 'farmgate' incident involving former deputy council leader Roger Hickford.
Coun Count said he is currently formulating an official complaint against Coun Nethsingha, for her 'lack of transparency' and will be taking it to the standards board.
He is also drafting a complaint against council chairman Councillor Derek Giles who he said had acted against against council policy when he failed to allow the monitoring officer an opportunity to make a point of clarification when she asked to do so during the debate.