Leading Torbay councillors quit their posts
TWO leading members of Torbay mayor Gordon Oliver's team have quit their top posts.
Alison Hernandez and Chris Lewis are both stepping down from their executive lead roles, raising concerns over the way council business is being conducted.
Cllr Hernandez is executive lead for involved and healthy communities and Cllr Lewis is in charge of children's services.
Alan Tyerman, who was in charge of finance, also quit his post for family reasons recently.
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Labour councillor Darren Cowell said: "I am shocked and surprised. After the resignation of Alan Tyerman, these two latest resignations mean the executive has lost its most talented and capable councillors.
"For the Mayor to lose one cabinet member is careless — but to lose three is disastrous.
"Now the reshuffle of the executive will be like moving the deck-chairs around on the Titanic as it sinks.
"Maybe it's time Gordon Oliver took a look at his executive and the way we run Torbay.
"At the moment we don't get an opportunity to fully discuss policy in the public arena.
"That's why Torbay is lacking in strategy and why we have a policy vacuum.
"The frustrations are beginning to show after two years of this administration because talented councillors are finding it is impossible for them to do their jobs."
Cllr Hernandez said she offered her resignation with 'great sadness', but said it was 'untenable to carry out this role effectively when one is a working parent'.
The 39-year-old, who has a five-year-old daughter, said: "The lack of flexibility, lack of decision-making ability, lack of the use of technology, low allowances and extremely limited officer support has exacerbated this."
She said that unless the mayor changes working practices, she cannot consider being an executive lead again, but she will continue to be a ward councillor.
She said: "I support the mayoral system, but executive leads are advisors not decision-makers and nobody does anything unless the mayor says so. I recognise he's a very busy man, but it's Gordon Oliver who sets the standards and makes the decisions and I believe he is not driving change where it's needed.
"I can't see where we're going as a council and a Bay. We're all busy, but busy doing nothing."
She claimed: "Old-fashioned council systems and processes hinder working parents' involvement.
"You have to be at meetings to input your view. But meetings are usually at school pick-up time. You get £6,000 for being an executive lead and it's not sustainable. I spend more than that on things like petrol, printing posters and leaflets for community information, and buying coffee or lunch for people I'm trying to persuade."
Cllr Lewis confirmed his wish to stand down as the executive lead for children, schools and families, and also as the chairman of the health and wellbeing board 'as soon as possible'.
He said: "The position is virtually a full-time role and an important role as with it comes statutory responsibilities."
He said he 'would be happy to continue as an executive lead with a different portfolio or serve the council in a position outside the executive'.
Cllr Lewis also spoke of his frustration that 'all the power is with the mayor'.
He said: "It's no secret that the mayor and I aren't in total agreement. It's always in the back of my mind that things aren't progressing in the Bay as quickly as I'd like. But the mayor makes the decisions and I respect that."
Cllr Tyerman, who stood down as the executive lead for finance in December, said it 'can be very difficult to juggle the demands of being an executive lead with family responsibilities'.
He said: "We should be doing everything we can to enable people to participate. It would clearly be a benefit to the council and the Bay to have councillors with a more representative spread of ages.
"We need younger councillors having their say."
He also said council meetings 'could be a lot slicker and more productive'.
Mayor Oliver said: "I would like to thank Cllrs Lewis and Hernandez for all their hard work and support to Torbay Council and I wish them both the best in their future roles.
"The executive and its members, including the mayor's role, are at the heart of the day-to-day decision-making process and have a key role in proposing the budget and policy framework to the council (having taken into account the views of the Overview and Scrutiny Board or any of its committees).
"Under the council's constitution the executive will consist of the mayor's role and at least two but no more than nine councillors appointed to the executive by the mayor.
"I will be reviewing the current executive arrangements with a view to making an announcement about executive member portfolios in the near future."