Councils’ boss accused of ‘political meddling of the worst kind’ as he tries to halt early vote on elected mayor for Cambridgeshire

UKIP's Paul Bullen furious today at Lord Porter over devolution email

UKIP's Paul Bullen furious today at Lord Porter over devolution email - Credit: Archant

A political storm erupted today after the UKIP leader on Cambridgeshire County Council accused Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association, of meddling in affairs that don’t concern him.

Councillor Paul Bullen told Lord Porter his attempts to postpone Tuesday’s vote at Shire Hall over whether Cambridgeshire should sign up to devolution involving Norfolk and Suffolk was “not within your remit”.

Lord Porter contacted councillors in Newcastle and Lincolnshire yesterday by email to ask if they could contact members in Cambridgeshire “from your respective groups” to see if they could get the debate put off until after Easter.

Lord Porter said: “I will endeavour to get Greg Clark to meet with all of them as soon as the Easter break is over to try to make sure that any questions they have can be answered before they make their decision”.

But Cllr Bullen is furious that Lord Porter has intervened and earlier today told him: “As far as I’m concerned it is not within your remit as chairman of the LGA to attempt to alter, in any way, shape or form, decisions already made by democratically elected councillors.

“All members are entitled to table motions and your deliberate attempt to sway the way any debate will go is political meddling of the worst kind.

“Clearly, and in my personal opinion, this is a politically motivated e-mail which is neither warranted nor wanted by the majority of members at Cambridgeshire County Council.

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“Indeed, I doubt that you have even read the devolution deal on offer for, had you done so, you would have realised what a terrible deal it is for Cambridgeshire.”

He accused the Lincolnshire peer of an “obvious attempt to interfere in the democratic process at Cambridgeshire County Council”.

Cllr Bullen told Lord Porter: “I believe that you have acted ‘ultra vires’ by sending this e-mail in the first place and I will be making a formal complaint regarding your conduct.”

In his email Lord Porter said: “I think we all agree that the devo deals announced are a step in the right direction and that we all agree that the leading groups pulling the deals together need to make every effort to keep all of their council members on board.

“I’m sure we all agree that if members decide for good reason that the deal is not worth pursuing then this is a position we should support.

“In the case of the Cambs deal I’m not sure that anyone is yet in the position to make a decision either way and this brings me to the point of this email.”

Lord Porter added: “I think a decision to reject the offer, so soon after it has been made and in the absence of any real chance for all of the relevant information to have been shared, risks bringing the whole agenda into disrepute.”

Thirty four devolution proposals are being considered across England.

Lord Porter said last week: “To build desperately-needed homes, create jobs, provide the dignified care for our elderly and boost economic growth, all councils need greater freedom from central government to take decisions over vital services in their area.

“These new deals and extensions to existing deals must signal a return to the early momentum in which similar deals were announced last year. This will clearly require different approaches for different areas, including how they are governed.”

Ironically the chief executive of the LGA is Mark Lloyd – until recently chief executive of Cambridgeshire County Council.