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Cllr Mike Baldock resigns as deputy leader of Swale council amid decision-making row

A senior member of a council has resigned, leaving the future of a coalition that runs the local authority up in the air.

Deputy leader of Swale council, Cllr Mike Baldock (Swale Independent Alliance), has decided to leave his post in the face of the Labour Group “demanding complete control” of decision making.

Swale council deputy leader Cllr Mike Baldock has resigned. Picture: John Nurden
Swale council deputy leader Cllr Mike Baldock has resigned. Picture: John Nurden

Cllr Baldock, who represents Borden and Grove and is the head of Swale council’s planning committee, took to social media this morning (December 7) to announce his resignation.

He said in a post that Labour sought to take control of administerial decisions giving them “an absolute veto on every issue”.

This would give the party powers to impose decisions on the other groups in the coalition, Cllr Baldock claimed.

At present Labour, whose leader has refuted the claims, holds 16 seats, with the Swale Independents (SIA) having 12 and the Green Party, the smallest member of the coalition, with three.

It is unknown who will replace Cllr Baldock as deputy leader.

Cllr Baldock said: “It is with great sadness that I have been left with no choice but to resign as deputy leader of Swale.

“This is not democracy. This is not collegiate working. This is not how coalitions work, and is not how you treat your partners in anything.

“The Swale Independents are about democracy, about balancing competing needs, and about working together with others for a common good.

“It is clear that the terms dictated by the Labour Group were totally unacceptable and there was no prospect of the SIA bowing down to such unreasonable behaviour.

“There, were, as always, some difficulties in running any coalition, but the last administration had lasted 4 years balancing the needs of 5 different groups.

Swale council offices in East Street, Sittingbourne. Picture: Google
Swale council offices in East Street, Sittingbourne. Picture: Google

“Sadly the current Labour Group couldn’t last one year without demanding complete control.”

In response, council leader Cllr Tim Gibson (Lab) refuted his claims.

He said: "Firstly, I would like to thank Mike for his dedicated work and commitment as deputy leader.

"He has made a valuable contribution to the role.

"It is regrettable that he has chosen to resign from that important position but any assertions that Labour wants to monopolise power, I categorically refute.

Swale council leader Tim Gibson (Lab, Roman). Picture: Tim Gibson
Swale council leader Tim Gibson (Lab, Roman). Picture: Tim Gibson

"In fact, unless their current committee chairs resign from their positions, Swale Independents still hold three of the six key chairs on the council, one more than the Labour Party.

"They have also co-produced our draft Corporate Plan and draft budget, both of which are currently out for consultation and I am grateful for their valuable contributions and remain hopeful that we can continue to work together on behalf of the communities that we represent.

"Labour is committed to delivering financial stability, resilient services, and representing our residents’ priorities and I reaffirm my offer of ongoing collaboration with all parties on Swale council for the improvement of the borough."

Meanwhile, Cllr Lloyd Bowen, leader of the Conservative group at Swale Borough Council, reasserted his party’s position to support its residents.

He said: “In view of the recent announcements regarding the leadership and administration of Swale council, our remains as it has been both before and since the May election.

Cllr Lloyd Bowen. Picture: Swale council
Cllr Lloyd Bowen. Picture: Swale council

“We are willing to work with and across all parties for the benefit of local residents.

“Where we agree with policies we will support them, where we disagree we will put forward constructive alternative proposals.

“This will apply whatever the future administration of Swale is to be.”

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