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Thanet District Council leader resigns just hours before bid to oust him from the position

The leader of a district council has resigned just hours before a bid to oust him from the position.

Cllr Rick Everitt (Lab), who has led Thanet District Council since 2019, says his decision was due to the Conservatives putting forward a motion to remove him just two weeks before a by-election.

Cllr Rick Everitt
Cllr Rick Everitt

The Tories had called an extraordinary meeting for this evening, with Cllr Ash Ashbee stating the motion that Cllr Everitt had "failed to address major governance issues" within the council and calling for him to be removed as leader.

But Cllr Everitt says he will be stepping down instead to prevent what he believes is an undemocratic move by the opposition.

"I respect the right of the Conservative group to call this vote, but they have had a year to do so and they waited until two weeks before by-elections for three vacant seats," he said.

"I cannot say what the outcome would have been tonight and I cannot predict who will win the by-elections, but I am very clear that it is undemocratic and wrong to try to deny the voters of Central Harbour, Dane Valley and Newington wards their proper say in who runs the council in such a way.

"Earlier this week, I offered the Conservatives a compromise under which their motion would be heard at an extraordinary meeting on May 13, one week after the by-elections.

Cllr Rick Everitt (Lab) and Cllr Ash Ashbee (Con)
Cllr Rick Everitt (Lab) and Cllr Ash Ashbee (Con)

"They could have taken this opportunity if they genuinely believed there was any urgency to make a change or any real justification for it except numbers, but they declined.

"It is clear that the only urgency they felt was to try to get in before these voters had their say.

"Consequently, I have resigned, solely to prevent that happening, and a date for an additional ordinary meeting which can elect a new leader is likely to be decided at the annual meeting next month."

In the interim, deputy leader Cllr Helen Whitehead will take on the position and the Labour administration will continue.

He added: "It is important to say that she has my complete confidence and, I believe, cross-party respect on the council.

Cllr Helen Whitehead
Cllr Helen Whitehead

"She will have my total support and that of cabinet.

"It has been a privilege to lead the council for the last 18 months, in very difficult circumstances, and I pay tribute to all our officers, my Labour cabinet and members across all parties for the way we have worked together in the pandemic for the benefit of the people of Thanet.

"The council as a whole has risen to the challenge and I have been proud to lead it at this time."

Cllr Everitt was elected as leader after a vote of no confidence in the then-leader Conservative Bob Bayford was held.

The motion that time was put by Thanet Independent Group leader Stuart Piper, which included a call for Cllr Bayford's removal from the position.

It passed and Cllr Everitt was then voted in.

This also led to the Tories losing administrative control and a Labour minority taking over.

The current council is made up of 25 Conservatives, 17 Labour members, six from the Thanet Independent Group, three Greens and two independents.

The three vacant seats are due to be filled on May 6 in a by-election, running alongside the county council poll.

Read more: All the latest news from Thanet

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