'Spectacle of chaos' accusation as council split cabinet role

Steve Riley, Shaun Vincent and housing in Sprowston

Liberal Democrat councillor Steve Riley (left) said he was concerned Broadland District Council was creating a "spectacle of chaos". Conservative council leader Shaun Vincent (right) denied this - Credit: Mike Page/George Thompson/Broadland District Council

A council has been accused of creating a “spectacle of chaos” after a move to shake up its top table of decision makers. 

Liberal Democrat councillor Steve Riley last week told a meeting he feared Broadland District Council’s ruling Conservative group was bringing the authority “into a position of disrepute” by changing how the council oversees its planning department. 

Council leader Shaun Vincent defended the move as one that “made sense”.

Mr Riley’s concern was sparked by a proposal from Mr Vincent to cut his cabinet of senior councillors down from seven members to six. 

Steve Riley

Steve Riley, Liberal Democrat councillor for Aylsham - Credit: George Thompson

He said he would do this by splitting up the responsibilities previously held by Ian Moncur, the portfolio holder for planning, and by giving some to the portfolio for housing and wellbeing, and the others to himself as leader. 

But Mr Riley was among several opposition councillors to speak out against the rejig, saying: “It makes no sense whatsoever, and it seems to me that it creates a spectacle of chaos in terms of how you are administering this council…

“Also, I think the residents may actually begin to wonder, are we actually moving the council into a position of disrepute in terms of the council acting in a chaotic way?”

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He was joined by his group leader Sue Holland, who said there were already problems with the way in which the authority handled planning applications, such as parish councils not being given enough time to comment on them - and that the move would not fix them. 

Labour councillor Natasha Harpley meanwhile said she was “bemused” by the move and was concerned about the wellbeing of residents being neglected due to the change.

Natasha Harpley, councillor for Sprowston Central

Labour councillor Natasha Harpley - Credit: Natasha Harpley

“We’re going through a cost of living crisis, wellbeing, mental health and all of that is paramount at the minute… I just don’t think it’s something that should be merged.”

Mr Vincent said Mr Moncur - who had only been appointed to the planning role two months ago - had asked to step down from it.

Shaun Vincent

Conservative council leader Shaun Vincent - Credit: Broadland District Council

“Unfortunately for him, work has sort of taken over and therefore that means he’s not able to give it the time that he wants to,” said Mr Vincent.

“The change is the best way to bring it forward. I felt by splitting off the portfolio in the ways that I have was the most appropriate way to do that.”

He added that concerns about planning applications not being properly considered were “not fair” or accurate. 

The council voted by majority to approve the change.