Bedford Borough LibDems have accused Mayor Tom Wootton of failing to meet a manifesto promise.
The LibDems claimed the mayor “chose not to fulfil a major manifesto promise” to introduce a cabinet member for families when selecting his cabinet and their roles at last week’s Full Council Meeting (Wednesday 17 May).
But the mayor said the role has been added to the previous Education and Child Services portfolio, and explained a report to the council had accidentally omitted that expansion.
During his election campaign, Mayor Tom told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that “nothing is joined up” at the council and the Conservatives will have a “golden thread” running through their policies.
“[Each portfolio holder] has a little silo, so they look after children, they look after adults, but nothing joins up,” he said.
“We’ve got to have somebody sitting there going ‘have you thought about this?’ so that everybody can be thinking about families, children and trying to get things to flow, because at the minute everybody is fighting a battle with everybody else [over budgets], but actually we’re all in this together.”
In a statement, Liberal Democrat Group leader, councillor Henry Vann, said: “It is disappointing that the new mayor has failed to deliver his first election commitment at his very first council meeting.
“He promised a new portfolio holder for families on his [sic] cabinet, but that role was sadly nowhere to be seen.
“And if it is simply a mistake or error then it’s a very telling one if he didn’t even notice that what was such a prominent election pledge was missing from his first-ever report to the council,” he said.
A council press release released ahead of the meeting listed this portfolio as “Family, Education, Children’s Services”.
However, the report presented to the council listed “Children’s Services”.
The portfolio holder’s duties also matched those listed by the previous administration, without a mention of the “golden thread” between the various portfolios.
Tom Wootton, mayor of Bedford Borough, said: “For the avoidance of doubt, the portfolio that includes families is the portfolio of Family, Education and Children’s Services which is an expansion of the previous Education and Child Services portfolio and held by councillor Jane Walker.
“Regrettably the report to council did not identify portfolio roles correctly and omitted this essential reference to family in the description.
“We are continuing to iron out the finer details of all roles and responsibilities to ensure we serve families of all types across Bedford borough properly.
“Jane will work closely with all portfolio holders to ensure we keep the golden thread of family throughout.
“Given the time restraints and the absolute requirement for continuity in the organisation, it was felt appropriate to continue with the existing responsibility groupings.
“It is recognised that there is a need to ensure that the impact on families is correctly considered as part of the council’s decision-making process at all times,” he said.
by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter