Lib Dems accused of hogging limelight in council row

Greg Hayman and Sarah Butikofer

North Norfolk District councillors Greg Hayman (independent), left, and Sarah Butikofer (Lib Dems) - Credit: Submitted

Selecting a council's vice-chairman is usually a sedate affair.

But the seemingly simple process has ended in yet another row at a troubled Norfolk council.

The north Norfolk Liberal Democrats have been accused of “politicising” a council role while a councillor was told his comments were “inappropriate”. 

The row is the latest in a list of recent issues at the council which has seen contact cut off from the local MP and a councillor depart the leading group.

North Norfolk District Council is doing an IT upgrade, meaning its local search departmet is closed

North Norfolk District Council wants local MPs to fight for right to comment on planning applications - Credit: Archant

When Sarah Butikofer, the former leader of the Lib Dem group and North Norfolk District Council, was put forward for the vice-chairman role on Wednesday it was criticised by independent Greg Hayman.

Ms Butikofer was one of two Lib Dems to be put forward for chairman and vice-chairman of the council.  

Mr Hayman, a former Lib Dem, took issue with this, arguing the positions would normally rotate around parties. 

“The Lib Dems are backing all the positions,” he said. 

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“Haven’t we had enough of Sarah? Can someone else not have the limelight?” 

The monitoring officer described his comment about Ms Butikofer as “inappropriate for this forum”. 

However, she said that no one else had been put forward for the position and other parties have the opportunity to do so. 

Greg Hayman, Liberal Democrat councillor for Trunch, pictured during the 2019 North Norfolk District

Greg Hayman represents the Trunch ward of NNDC - Credit: Archant

Mr Hayman then argued that the monitoring officer was being party-political and questioned whether he could refer her to "higher authorities".

“I think her comment is out of order,” he added. 

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Hayman accused the Lib Dems of politicising the chairman roles in a year leading up to an election. 

He said: “Cllr Butikofer can hardly be regarded as non-party political in the role considering that only weeks ago she stepped down as leader of NNDC."

Liberal Democrat councillor Sarah Bütikofer. Picture: North Norfolk District Council

Liberal Democrat councillor Sarah Bütikofer. Picture: North Norfolk District Council - Credit: North Norfolk District Council

Ms Butikofer announced her resignation as leader in January due to her husband’s ill health and the death of both her parents. 

She rejected Mr Hayman's assertion arguing it was a shame it was overshadowing the election of Pauline Grove-Jones to chairman.

Ms Butikofer stressed that the Conservative and Independent groups had been approached to put a candidate forward but had not done so.

She added that having two Lib Dems in positions where they have to be non-political in an election year may be a help to the opposition groups.

Late last week Georgie Perry-Warnes, who represents Holt ward, left the Liberal Democrat group saying it had become too "tribal", while the leader offered to end his feud with MP Duncan Baker which saw him refuse to talk to him for 12 weeks.