THE under-fire leader of Christchurch council has admitted there is ‘work to be done’ following a controversial leadership challenge.
The dispute, which split the Conservative group 11-11, sparked criticism of Cllr Ray Nottage and raised questions about his credibility after he used his casting vote to keep his position as leader – effectively voting twice.
When asked if he thought he had the moral authority and mandate to continue as leader following the vote, he said: “The rules say you have to make the decision in that way.
“I think I am morally sound. My supporters, certainly, my team, insisted that I carry on. Is there work to be done? Of course.”
He said the council did listen to residents, citing the successful £1 for two hours parking charge campaign by the Chamber of Commerce and the community-run Mudeford Wood Centre as examples.
“Can we do better? I am sure we can. Will we do better? I am sure we will, providing we are given a fair chance to respond, because at the end of the day what we are doing is running council tax-payers’ assets,” he added.
He disputed the view that Christchurch council was seen as uncaring.
Over his style of leadership, with one Tory councillor describing it as ‘abrasive and confrontational’, he said his leadership was ‘business-orientated’.
“This description of me as some sort of aggressive, non-approachable, bullying-type manager is not displayed in any way as far as I can see. What I did do quite deliberately was introduce much more robust discussion in the council chamber as it was pretty uninspiring beforehand.
“My team work very well with me, extraordinarily well.
“I do what I do. I don’t think I bully.
“I think I am very positive. I sit down and work out what I want to achieve in terms of outcomes and I explain that as clearly and precisely as I possibly can.
“Within my own ward I don’t think you would get that description. I think what we have is a level of description from people who have hardly ever met me, let alone do business with me.”
He said, while he would take it on board, he didn’t see that in himself.
‘We were looking down some dreadful black holes’
THE council has undergone major changes in the past few years, with the partnership between Christchurch and East Dorset expected to return savings of around £1.4m once the process is complete.
Shared services include Dorset Waste Partnership and the Stour Valley Partnership which includes different shared services between East Dorset, North Dorset and, soon, Poole councils.
Cllr Nottage said: “The interesting thing about the approach to this job, bearing in mind it is one of the biggest businesses in the borough, is very much one of business and we had to take a very pragmatic business view of the situation we were in because we were looking down some pretty dreadful black holes.
“In 2011 we had no idea what the government would be doing in respect of reducing the regional grants.
“So the business approach had to start from square one.”
He added: “Criticisms that come through to the council should take into account the effect it has on those officers who have done a brilliant job under the most difficult of circumstances.”
Looking to the next 12 months, he said key issues include the signing off of the core strategy by the Secretary of State, which is due in the next few days, housing, financial security and maintaining services.