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Bucks Council cabinet 'old and white' say Lib Dems

The group don't think leaders represent the diversity of our county, but the leader has hit back.

Published by Local Democracy Reporter Oliver Sirrell at 5:47am 7th May 2020. 4-minute read.

Bucks Council cabinet 'old and white' say Lib Dems

A political row has broken out after Buckinghamshire Council’s new top team was branded ‘old and white’ and ‘from the 1950s’.

Members of the Wycombe Liberal Democrats attacked council bosses for a lack of diversity in the cabinet, which was formally announced last week after the formation of Buckinghamshire Council at the start of April.

But the creation of the team has not impressed the Wycombe Liberal Democrats.

Ian Morton, chair of the group, said:

“We’re frankly appalled at the lack of diversity in the makeup of our new Bucks Council leaders.

“At a time when all members of our diverse community in Wycombe are working together to get through this crisis, we have a leadership team which harks back to the 1950s.

“Predominantly old and white, they do not represent the diverse and dynamic leadership that our county needs.

“We need a new team, full of bright ideas and representing all our communities, not the same old councillors who have performed so badly over the last decade.”

Conservative councillor Martin Tett heads up the cabinet as leader of the authority, supported by deputies Angela Macpherson and Katrina Wood.

Fourteen other posts have been filled by councillors with responsibilities for overseeing everything from sport and leisure to children’s services to regeneration and more.

Toni Brodelle, Liberal Democrats Wycombe parliamentary spokesperson added:

“Surprising and disappointing to see so little representation of BAME people in the new council.

“How can this council be considered representative if it doesn’t have a full representation of our diverse community at its core?”

Leader disagrees

Martin Tett, Leader BCC

But Buckinghamshire Council leader Martin Tett has hit back at the comments, claiming the make-up of the cabinet has somewhat been decided by emergency government regulations following the cancellation of the May local elections.

He said:

“It’s sad to see the Wycombe Lib Dems coming out with the same old nonsense and trying to score party political points at this time of national crisis when we should all be working together.

“The make-up of the cabinet has been decided by the central government.

“The regulations that are being put in place following the cancellation of the 7 May 2020 elections [and] stipulate that the cabinet of the council comprises the 17 members of the previous transition executive.

“The council has no option on the makeup of cabinet. It does nevertheless strongly represent the different geographic parts of the county and has two strong and capable women as its deputy leaders.”

The announcement of the cabinet was accompanied by a list of chairmen set to spearhead the new community boards set up around the county.

Graham Harris will head up Amersham’s board, Arif Hussain will spearhead High Wycombe’s body, Patricia Birchley will be in charge of the Chesham and Villages board and more than a dozen other councillors will lead the remaining groups.

Cllr Tett added:

“We are fully committed to a fully inclusive council based on ability, not quotas.

“This is clearly seen when you look at the membership of council committees and the chairmen of the vitally important community boards, which will be involved in the development of policies and programmes to deliver services to our communities.

“These appointments demonstrate a very diverse makeup.

“For example, the Chairmen of both the Wycombe Community Board and the Wycombe Town Committee both come from the local BME community as do members of the local planning committee.

“I would urge the local Lib Dems to work with us to realise the very best results for all our communities at this very troubling time, rather than try to sow division.”

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