Archive for May, 2013

Well who expected that?

Norfolk County Council has a Labour Leader!

There it is I’ve said it – the first step in accepting it (or so I’m told). Believe it or not, it isn’t out of bitterness that I’m finding it abit strange to come to terms with. As I’ve alluded to in previous posts, the political make-up of the council made it impossible for a Labour leader to be elected without support from UKIP, Liberal Democrat and Green Councillors.

If the past two weeks has taught me anything it’s to expect the unexpected and be surprised by nothing.

What makes this deal (which I’m referring to as #NorfolksRagTagAndBobtailDeal on Twitter) all the more extrodinary is not only the Liberal Democat and Green failure to agree with the Conservatives on a deal earlier in the week; but the Green and Labour battleground that is Norwich City Council! I’ve already heard that there are City Councillors on both sides that are unhappy about this.

The major thing that concerns me about the Rag Tag and Bobtail deal is that by thier own admission they disagree on “almost everything” except to change the way the County Council is governed, which they plan to change within a year. That’s fair enough, I’m not disputing that at the moment and they have promised that it will be investigated and debated by all councillors, and I will no doubt put my veiws on these pages when it comes to that debate. What deeply concerns me is that they have to reach agreement on the “everything else” within the next year whilst George Nobbs is leader; Adult social care, Childrens Services, Planning and Transport, Fire Service etc. When asked what his policy was (his or Labour/LibDem/UKIP/Green’s policy) his answer was to “sort the mess out”. Despite disputing that the County Council is in a “mess”, the statement still fails to answer the question of “How?”; are we getting a socailism direction at County Hall or a more right wing mantra which will come from UKIP’s influence in the administation. Interestingly enough, UKIP’s leader at County Hall Toby Coke has been quoted as saying they will be taking a “back seat” in the administration. For areas of Norfolk that have elected UKIP County Councillors, I can only imagine how the residents feel about their Councillors “taking a back seat”.

As for us, as the oppistion, forty of us Conservatives were elected on the back of a manifesto (see and we plan to hold the new administration to account.

In other news, Tuesday night the RAF Coltishall Community Liason Committee did meet at the base. I think the group welcomed the oppitunity to see what the County Council were planning on consulting on (which is by no means set in stone) and the Liason Committee was able to comment on all aspects. Of course the new leader will (hopefully this week) appoint a Cabinet member who will now take the RAF Coltishall project forward and into th consultation. My plea to whichever Councillor that is, is that they meet with the Liason Committee before the formal consultation is started and continue the effectivee relationship the Council has built with the committee.

Have a good bank holiday weekend.

A week is a (very) long time in politics…

So I think I ended my blog last week by saying that full council would meet for the first time on Monday to agree a leader of the council; looking back on that statement I now admire my optimism.

Council met on Monday, and managed to elect a Chairman in Cllr Hillary Cox (or Mrs Cromer). It was a pleasure for me to support Hillary as she is one of Norfolks characters (well ex-landlady says it all really) and I am confident that she will excel in being the civic ambassador for Norfolk this year. Many people have asked me this week the difference between Chairman of the Council and Leader of the Council; just to clarify, the Chairman of the Council is a apolitical councillor elected yearly to preside over meetings of the full council, represent the council and the county at various events though out the year, a busy and demanding role.

The council also elects a leader who is political and appoints a cabinet to take day-to-day policy decisions in the different service areas of the council. On Monday, we the Conservatives proposed Cllr Bill Borrett to be leader of the council.

As you may have read in the EDP, at the end of last week and over the weekend we were “in talks” with the Liberal Democrats to get their support to elect Bill as leader; out of 10 cabinet positions they demanded (and would not negotiate) 4. Now for a party that only managed to attract 10.97% of the vote share to demand 40% of seats on Cabinet to me was ridiculous! Council is meeting again next Friday….

I also have had the pleasure of addressing Upton, Salhouse, Coltishall and Wroxham Parish Councils at their annual meetings this week. In Upton I was pleased to hear that residents have had a Council tax freeze from all County, District, and the Parish Council this year; and despite crime in the village being very low (single figures) it has decreased with the council being reassured that Broadland is officially the safest district in the country. I was hearted to hear from the PCSOs report that the Police are by no means complacent about this and are actively encouraging residents to not feel reluctant in reporting low level antisocial behaviour and crime.

In Salhouse, after I introduced myself we had a discussion on the closure of Mill Road and the traffic that was unintentionally sending down Thieves Lane, which during rush hour simply cannot cope. I explained to residents and the Council that I had contacted highways and the contractors working there (Anglia Water and BT) have completed work today. Residents impressed upon me the importance of making it clear that if Mill Road was ever closed again the need to safeguard against that volume of traffic using Thieves Lane.

The same Monday night, I also attended Coltishall Parish Councils meeting where the Councillors raised concerns with me over the continuation of being included in the plans for the future of the RAF Coltishall site, which the County Council purchased last year. There is a meeting of the RAF Coltishall Community Liaison group pencilled in the diary for next Tuesday, but given the County Councils political uncertainty it was unclear if the meeting is going to go ahead. I have spoken to officers at County Hall who are (as of this morning) still debating if the meeting should go ahead. I agreed with Coltishall Parish Council that regardless whether the meeting goes ahead on Tuesday the community engagement in the project so far has been positive and I will push for the same level to continue. As a Norfolk man born and bread, I am keen to see the airbase brought back into use for the good of the local community.

At Wroxham Parish Council last night, although no issues were raised with me, the Council was pleased to see me and are enquiring to Broadland High School to see if they will help the council set up a website to help the Council engage further with the Wroxham Community.

Finally, if your thinking that I don’t have any time away from local politics, I managed to get down to London mid-week where I addressed a conference on Early Support. Early Support is about agencies better coordinating services for disabled children and their families. As a young man with Cerebral Palsy, I was asked to address the conference on my experiences of disability, services, and maintaining family life!

Have a good weekend.

Well hello!

OK so a week ago today I was elected Norfolk County Councillor for the Wroxham division which includes the villages of  Belaugh, Coltishall, Crostwick, Hemblington, Horsted, Rackheath, Salhouse, South Walsham, Upton, Woodbastwick, and of course Wroxham (hence the name).

As people know, I have been a County Councillor before, and despite being a active Twitter user (@TomGarrod) I have never really managed to keep to a discipline of writing a blog (not through lack of trying). However, I have decided that this is an ideal opportunity for a new start. So I hope (he says with his fingers crossed) to provide a weekly update on a Thursday/ Friday/ Saturday morning (diary permitting) to have a look back on the week just gone, and a glimpse at the week ahead (and the occasional ramble).

Well for this whole two weeks my body hasn’t known what time of day it is! As soon as I’d heard that I won on Friday it has been congratulatory phone calls and e-mails, diary planning and of course planning our political future up at County Hall.

The election results last week left the council in “No Overall Control” which (for those of you who aren’t familiar with Local Government lingo) means that although the Conservatives are the largest party on the Council with 40 councillors, the other parties combined (UKIP, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens and an independent councillor) outnumber us by 3. Our first major challenge at Full Council on Monday is to agree to elect a leader, the Conservatives have already elected our leader, Councillor Bill Borrett, and we hope to see him voted in as Council Leader next Monday with other parties co-operation. I’ll update you next week!

With the negotiations between parties in the background, County Hall has also welcomed new councillors (of all colours) this week. It kind of reminds you of the start of a school term, where everyone is trying to find out at once where they’re suppose to be and what they need in terms of equipment and paperwork. I entered this week thinking “I’ve done this before” but still end up getting confused at points.

I’m off to my first Parish Council in Upton tonight, where it is their Annual meeting. I must admit, I haven’t got much of an “Annual Report” being less than a week in post, but will give a verbal update.

The views expressed on this website are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Conservative Councillors' Association or the Conservative Party.