Fleming's seat targeted in Sevenoaks District Council leadership challenge
A FORMER Sevenoaks District Council chairman has launched a dramatic bid to unseat the authority's leader.
Councillor James Gaywood sparked a contest for Peter Fleming's position this week following revelations that council tax bills will rise by nearly 2 per cent.
The authority's 47 Conservative members will vote on the leadership during a closed meeting at the civic offices in Argyle Road next Tuesday. The results should be known by 7.30pm.
Mr Gaywood, who was council chairman from 2007-2008, said: "I think it's good to challenge now and then; especially if you're not happy with the way things are.
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"My biggest concern is the way we're dealing with what is a very difficult national financial situation. There is a lot of pressure being put on councils but I feel the way we are responding should be different. Take the council tax rise; I'm not totally in favour of that approach.
"A number of councillors see things my way.
"This is a democracy; if people agree with my stance, I'll be leader. If they don't, I won't."
It is the second time the two politicians have gone head to head for the title of council leader. Mr Gaywood and Mr Fleming, member for Sevenoaks Town and St John’s, both stood for the post when it became vacant in 2005.
“Peter won that time,” said Mr Gaywood. “This time we’ll see if there has been a change of heart among members. There are 47 members all together – how they will vote remains to be seen. I’m certainly not going to be making any forecasts.
“If the vote goes for Peter, I’ll fully accept it and he’ll have my full support. But I’ll continue to raise the concerns of people in my ward, that’s why I became a councillor in the first place.”
Mr Fleming said his Conservative colleagues have the opportunity to vote for a leader each year.
He said: "The budget was something we discussed as a group and as a council. All angles were looked at and the budget was voted on.
"But James is entitled to his views.
"These are very difficult times. I'm committed to driving down the cost of running the council but this has to be set against the need to provide quality services. Raising council tax is not a default position and should only happen alongside the implementation of efficiencies"