Cllr Alan Melton has become the new Conservative leader of Fenland Council. There has been some acrimonious infighting in the Conservative Group and Cllr Melton had to fight three ballots and defeat five other candidates. Some have expressed regret that the rows have overshadowed the success by Cllr Melton's predecessor Cllr Geoffrey Harper – including the Audit Commission rating of Fenland as "excellent" and grading it the fifth best performing council in England.
But all the Conservative Group have pledged to unite behind Cllr Melton. His relationship with the chief executive Tim Pilsbury could be a bit awkward as Mr Pilsbury had made a complaint about Cllr Melton to the Standards Board for England.
I have seacrhed in vain for an ideological basis to the factionalism in the Fenland Council Conservative Group. But Cllr Melton has pledged to involve back benchers more, ensure councillors rather than officers make the decisions and reduce secrecy. He is concerned that there were 750 Freedom of Information requests to the Council in recent years. One of the advantages of the transparency approach the Mayor of London Boris Johnson is taking, and that David Cameron would take as Prime Minister, is that the number of FIA requests (and the cost of dealing with them) could be expected to fall. If the information about spending levels, staffing numbers and salaries, crime statistics, etc, etc, is all clearly available on the website then there is no need for a Freedom of Information request.