Cllr Julia Baker-Smith voted as chair of the planning committee

The vote was incredibly close with Independent councillor, Julia Baker Smith, winning by just one vote.

Blueprints

If you followed our live coverage of the full council meeting on Wednesday evening, you’ll know the Isle of Wight councillor for Whippingham and Osborne, Cllr Julia Baker-Smith, was elected as the new chair of the Planning Committee.

Julia Baker-SmithThere were initially three nominations for the role, but this was narrowed down to two after Cllr Bob Blezzard – who was nominated by Cllr Priest – withdrew himself from the vote.

This left Independent Cllr Baker-Smith (nominated by Cllr Fuller – the previous chair) and Conservative Cllr Richard Hollis (nominated by Cllr Stewart).

A two minute opportunity to explain to members why they felt they were the best person for the job was proposed and voted on, attracting 20 votes in favour, 12 against and 4 abstentions.

Cllr Hollis: “I’m a free agent”
Conservative councillor for Parkhurst, Cllr Hollis, was the first to speak. He said,

“Town planning role is totally non political and that is terribly important. I think this is an admirable opportunity for a real cross-party non-partisan opportunity to appoint someone who is not of the ruling group to be chairman of planning.”

He went on to explain that he was chairman of planning in Richmond Upon Thames for four years, dealing with small and large scale applications. When he came to the Island, he was vice chairman of planning for two years, then becoming chairman for two years following the death of Ivor Bulwer who was chairman.

Cllr Hollis went on to say,

“I am a free agent, I do have time, I do not have to look after my family because they’ve all grown up. I can fit in with the officers’ time and their workload, so when I was chairman we didn’t have a fixed time to visit them, they’d call me and I was there.”

Cllr Baker-Smith: Having a family doesn’t preclude me from the role
Firstly thanking her colleagues for nomination, Cllr Baker-Smith went on to say,

“Clearly my colleagues on the other side of the chamber had some awareness of that the chairman was going to ask for two minute talks so I apologise for my unpreparedness.

“I’ve been on the Island all my life, I know this Island very, very well and prior to becoming a councillor in my campaign life I was involved with a number of significant planning application and came to know the planning system really rather well.

She went on to say,

“For the last month and a half approximately, I have been acting up into the role. I have worked hard in the role already. I’ve been working well with planning officers who phone me regularly and ask me to come in, on sometimes 30 minutes to an hour’s notice, which I do always.

“I have a family, but having a family certainly doesn’t preclude me from my role and I think it would be somewhat sexist if people were discriminatory if people were to consider that given all of my children at school or in full time childcare and as such I am free all day every day in order to undertake my role which I do and have been doing.”

Narrow margin
There was a named vote.

It was interesting to see vice chairman, Cllr Chapman say he was abstaining, but the chair, Cllr Ian Ward, chose to vote (for Cllr Hollis).

The two Labour councillors (Lumley and Hollands) and the LibDem councillor (Barry) all voted for Cllr Baker-Smith.

Cllr Richard Priest, Jon Gilbey and UKIP councillor Daryll Pitcher all voted for the Conservative candidate.

Cllr Baker-Smith attracted 18 votes, whilst Cllr Hollis attracted 17. Cllr Baker-Smith was appointed as chairman of the planning committee.

Image: Keoni under CC BY 2.0

Friday, 17th October, 2014 11:49am

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85 Comments on "Cllr Julia Baker-Smith voted as chair of the planning committee"

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ThomasC
It’s interesting that I collected signed Independent Councillor’s Covenants from most of the candidates last year, but don’t appear to have copies from Priest and Gilby. I guess they didn’t think it mattered at the time. As time passes, it looks like it mattered more and more. I’m confident Julia will do an excellent job working with the officers, she has the interests of the Island at… Read more »
Julia Baker-Smith
A friend pointed this article out to me this evening, I’d just like to thank everyone for their supportive comments, I too was surprised to be the subject of a debate on the ability of parents to undertake their job in 2014! I’m pleased though that this debate has happened, I’d be very interested to speak to anyone (male or female) who has experienced discrimination in their… Read more »
Island Monkey

A friend eh.. You seriously don’t ever look on this blog yourself?

I find that very hard to believe.

Julia Baker-Smith

I certainly do miss the my days of scouring VB/OTW and wish I still had the time to do so. However I was genuinely and pleas

Julia Baker-Smith

Pleasantly surprised to read such supportive comments. Thank you .

davidwalter

Julia, don’t be too strict. Just be strict enough. And remember, when views are divided the status quo should remain. i.e. If it’s a green field, let it remain a green field. ;-)

tryme
You have been coming across as a more than able person, Cllr Baker-Smith, and more than capable of dealing with patronising comments, (yes David, I’m looking at you!) And Island Monkey, you know it could even be true that a busy person isn’t glued to OTW but just dips in and out once in a while? Hard to believe for those with more time or different priorities,… Read more »
davidwalter

Aha! tryme. My first stalker! I feel humbled and honoured. Say hi next time. According to my diary the next IWC mtg I’m going to will be the Exec on 11th Nov.

Vix
Well done, Julia Baker-Smith, for holding your ground and not being swayed by the patronising argument that because you have children at home, you cannot take part fully in public life. I was really disappointed to read the argument that Cllr Hollis believes he should have the role because he doesn’t have small children living with him. If someone has taken that commitment, been elected into their… Read more »
martin William Wareham

I Believe Councillor J.B.S is the best choice Hollis was a very poor second choice and no thanks to Priest and Gilbey the turncoats the vote was very close .

Don smith

Could Priest and Gilbey stand as Independents at the next local elections? It’s the only way they will stay as Councillors mi thinks
.

Geoff Lumley

Don – they were elected as ‘Independents’ just last year, but are now voting with the very Tories they each stood against !

Lady at the Back

As a matter of interest, does anyone know how Cllr Blezzard voted?

steve s

Cllr Blezzard abstained.

long in the tooth
The best man got the job. I am in total agreement with Vix in her comment. I have been to planning meetings where Cllr Hollis chaired and in my opinion his style, knowledge and chairmanship skills left a lot to be desired. If Cllr Ward did give notice to Cllr Hollis of his intention to let candidates speak on their nomination before a vote, as Cllr Baker-Smith… Read more »
Cynic

Give the recent problems of the Independents, does the recent voting pattern reveal anything?

Chairman Cllr Ian Ward (Tory), voted for Cllr Hollis (Tory)).
Cllr Pitcher (UKIP) voted for Cllr Hollis (Tory),
Cllr.Blezzard,(Ind) abstained
Cllr Richard Priest (notionally Ind) voted for Cllr Hollis (Tory),
Cllr.Jon Gilbey (notionally Ind) voted for Cllr Hollis (Tory),

MamaLu
I am disgusted that Cllr Hollis inferred that he was the better candidate because he didn’t have to look after a family. In any other employment situation surely that would have been a clear case of discrimination against a worker with children. I thought such behaviour was illegal. To be honest his comments have confirmed my opinion of him as a staunch Tory. I am therefore relieved… Read more »
Stewart Blackmore

Cllr Hollis’s remarks surely shouldn’t surprise. It merely goes to prove that the Tory dinosaurs are still there. When will they finally accept that they are no longer in power?

tryme
Totally agree, MamaLu. When I read Cllr Hollis’ pitch I thought: How odd he is telling us he has no family to care for. How many of us don’t spend time caring for family in all sorts of ways? I was sorry he had noone and hoped he had close friends instead. I wondered if this was a cry for help, and whether someone apparently advertising his… Read more »
Alison Hayden.
Councillor Baker-Smith responded admirably to the sexist, chauvinistic, inappropriate remarks made by Councillor Hollis. This young lady has managed to be a County Councillor entirely on her own merits, with no presumption that having a young family would in any way compromise her focus. There was utter disbelief that any one, let alone a County Councillor, should be allowed to publicly say such a thing to try… Read more »
tryme
I daresay there are all sorts of things one might also object to, in an effort to suggest someone isn’t fit to be Chair – the time they spend on the golf course, their drinking excessive alcohol and being unfit the next day, the threat to their mood and health through obesity, the time they spend off-Island, their dubious financial dealings, their unpleasant attitude towards their partners,… Read more »
davidwalter
If I may make a comment with no intentional political undertones whatsoever? Planning is a vital portfolio on this green holiday isle; our tourist come here because it’s so rural and non-urban. We already have a large elderly demographic bias and many younger families struggling with housing costs. And we have the needs of business. It’s a delicate balance. It isn’t an easy job and every decision… Read more »
Stewart Blackmore

We agree again, David – there’s hope for you yet!!

davidwalter

We often agree Stewart, particularly after you’ve read my input ;-)

yjciow
Would have like Julia Baker Smith to have gained more experience before accepting the role of Chairperson. I supported Julia in her campaign against the asphalt plant so it would be nice to think she will support me and other residents against the wind turbine application. Not sure that she will as she has said she likes the look of wind turbines. I like the look of… Read more »
Vix

The planning committee make judgements based on evidence and rules and law. Personal preferences are not part of that. Planning reasons have to be given and justified. I am sure that she knows the planning rules and they will be upheld.

davidwalter
Vix — Aesthetics are material planning factors. You can’t write a code of aesthetics. Peoples’ views are also legitimate planning factors. Nobody expects a lay Planning Committee to suddenly become fully trained Planning Officers. Provided the Committee listens carefully to the officers they stand a better chance of justifying decisions in a way that will not be overturned by appeal. IF the officers are playing ball, of… Read more »
Robbo

Is that the Vix who is keeping very quiet about being selected as the Island’s Green Party candidate at next year’s general election ?

Vix

Bureaucracy still has the upper hand!

Robbo

Even in the Greens! Would never have thought it.

vix

Btw I’m a parent and I have three children, the eldest is 8. No doubt I need to be prepared now for questions posed by the Cllr Hollises of this world.

davidwalter
yjciow — I used to like them when we had them in Cornwall but I got tired of them after a few years. However most people hate the look of them. Especially in rural areas. So doesn’t matter a jot whether I like them or not…they are not popular with those who have to live with them. Of itself that isn’t necessarily sufficient to turn down applications… Read more »
The Sciolist
Nice for them all to demonstrate their loyalties, but who chairs planning is almost totally irrelevant. Most applications will be decided on the Island plan, the law or as a last resort by the inspector in Bristol. Thankfully these days local politicians play a largely ceremonial part in all this. If they did not, there is no way that the number of new homes needed would ever… Read more »
Mrs Retired Hack
“It was interesting to see vice chairman, Cllr Chapman say he was abstaining, but the chair, Cllr Ian Ward, chose to vote (for Cllr Hollis).” Can I ask what the protocol is for the chairman voting? Normally one would assume that the chairman/woman was impartial and only had a casting vote in the case of a tie. If Cllr Ward voted, and then there had been a… Read more »
tryme

Good point. Especially as votes will be SO close now; but in any case it undermines the Chair’s role if councillors see that s/he is going to register their own view as they wish. Policy could now be decided at the behest of Ian Ward! I hope someone sorts this.

steve s

It’s highly unusual (and disappointing!) to see the chairman vote.
Let’s hope this isn’t an indication of what to expect in the future. :-(

Mrs Retired Hack

Thanks for that, Cllr Stubbings. RH suggests that perhaps the next time the chairmanship is up for election, the candidates are invited to speak for two minutes on subjects including their policy on whether they would ever double-vote…

steve s

What a splendid idea! Perhaps we could get Cllr Stewart to propose it.
I would have to say that, up until now, the present chairman has conducted himself with admirable decorum. It would be a great shame if, in the wake of recent events, this was to change in any way.

davidwalter
steve s — I think all would agree with you that Ian Ward has conducted himself well. I won’t go along with your qualification “up to now” because Ian has not explained his position. There may be good reasons, maybe he feels it is not appropriate to share them but his action was entirely in accordance with the IWC Constitution so the onus is not on him… Read more »
Geoff Lumley
I think everyone is forgetting that Cllr Ward also voted in a debate at the March 2014 Full Council over the highly contentious Executive Advisory Committees, which all the Tories opposed and subsequently boycotted – see http://www.iwight.com/Meetings/committees/mod-council/19-3-14/minutes.pdf He has a track record of partisanship since then in my view and his performance at the September 2014 Full Council was nothing short of disgraceful in his blatant favouring… Read more »
tryme
I must say though Steve, that I squirmed at the way Ian Ward as Chair smiled seemingly jauntily all the while (was he nervous or just unfeeling?) at the poor bereaved son asking questions about his late mother’s death, at Full Council last month. I was very glad you retrieved the situation by immediately and seriously offering the son your condolences. The Chair should have done the… Read more »
long in the tooth
I have Chaired many committee’s in my time, including Council meetings. It is highly unusual for a Chairman to vote unless it is a casting vote. I once voted on a matter that I knew Councillors had been put under pressure about by a political group. This necessitated me having also to make a casting vote and I voted against my view in order to stop the… Read more »
tryme
I’m staggered that the question of how the Council Chair operates is spoken about here as though we are entirely in the Chair’s hands. Is such a matter, that crucially pertains to decision-making, not laid down in writing for all to point to? As regards Cllr Hollis getting unfair advance notice of making a presentation, I had a feeling of something fishy going on, just from Sally’s… Read more »
phil jordan
Tryme: I didn’t speak out at the time….. but that was mainly because of how the whole issue unfolded. (and that is not to say that all of this is not stored for a suitable and even more effective moment to re-visit) Interrupting the presentation seemed inappropriate and we moved so quickly through the presentations and onto the vote…which went in favour of Cllr Baker Smith… that… Read more »
tryme
Phil, I know how one’s breath can be taken away by a blatantly discriminatory remark, and one misses the moment to react to it. Being in a Council meeting might pose its own procedural challenges, for all I know. ***However***, I think it’s crucial to identify any ‘dog whistle’ call to discriminate that is being made to councillors, and also deemed acceptable to make in front of… Read more »
Geoff Lumley

How about ‘neanderthal’ ?

davidwalter
Neanderthal? Slight digression but the more we learn about Neanderthals we more accurate we find Jean Auel’s ‘Earths Children’ books. Originally written for children — particularly for girl-children — they are a fascinating insight into primitive societies, 20th Century attitudes to women vs men, Neanderthals, and their interaction with Homo Sapiens. I commend them as excellent reading; far more interesting even than the last minutes of the… Read more »
phil jordan
…and as bad…. to learn that the chairman had agreed to allow Cllr Hollis (at least, I have no knowledge for Cllr Blezzard) to present his case to Council with a short presentation. That was NOT conveyed to Cllr Baker Smith prior to the commencement of the meeting and who.therefore, did not know she had to (or could) make a presentation. This was not their finest hour…..… Read more »
Robert Jones
I couldn’t believe it when I read it – that anyone in this day and age would imply that someone couldn’t give their full attention to the job because she OR he had children is surely incredible? On the question of votes etc – I’ve been chairman of several organizations and vice chairman of several more: your job as chairman is to keep the meeting to the… Read more »
Robert Jones

Actually, Jones, don’t talk nonsense – local government is supposed to be transparent, and electors are entitled to know who voted for what. Private organizations are very different. Even so, I don’t think the chairman should exercise a casting vote in elections of individuals to any position.

davidwalter

The IWC Constitution states that the rules of Full Council are to be in accordance with the Procedure Rules (embedded in the Constitution). The relevant section says:

2. Chairman’s casting vote
If there are equal numbers of votes for and against, the chairman will have a second or casting vote. There will be no restriction on how the chairman chooses to exercise a casting vote.

Geoff Lumley

Interesting Phil, that Cllr Hollis’ Tory colleague – Cllr Julie Jones-Evans – supported him despite these remarks. She is also the mother of a young child, though like Julia she also has the support of her family in her Council activities.

phil jordan

Geoff:

Yes….curious eh? ;0)

You’d think they were whipped sometimes….in spite of the protestations they are not!

This post was a big wish for the conservatives…

tryme

Do you both also check whether male councillors have ‘the support of their families’ and tell us about it? If not, it sounds a bit patronising to speak here in that vein of female ones.

And a pity that Cllr Baker-Smith felt obliged to tell us about her childcare arrangements, when no male colleague would have been expected to. How intrusive.

phil jordan

tryme:

This needs keeping in context of what was said in the Chamber and how it was said…. unfortunately, the recording is not yet online for this item to be able to do that….

tryme

How about Council meetings being streamed online, Phil? I think that was favourably discussed here in the run up to the election.

tryme
Surely online streaming of Council meetings would say it all about the Indies’ wish for openness? And it would undercut Chris Whitehouse’s misinformation in the CP and his press releases generally, not to mention showing how reasonable the Indies are, and what they are *actually* saying. Only about 6 people in the very small public gallery can currently see much of the proceedings – if they are… Read more »
davidwalter

So those of the rules, last updated in March during this present administration. Could be changed but meanwhile it sounds as though Ian was obeying the rules. I would have been surprised had he not, echoing other earlier comments here. Not really his style.

retired Hack
Certainly within the rules, that’s not in question. If he’d breached the rules, either the Monitoring Officer would have picked him up on it, or there’d have been a formal complaint made by now. This is not the same as “obeying the rules” because there’s no rule requiring the chair, or anyone else, to vote in the initial vote. The constitution does have a mechanism for dealing… Read more »
davidwalter
tryme, have a google and see the discussions that have taken place in other Councils – some have video some don’t. Clearly it is something we should have or must have but it isn’t as easy as just sticking four cameras in. For a start, some positions will inevitably give a bad side profile of some Members, etc. How would you or I like ‘unfortunate’ angles perpetually… Read more »
tryme
I don’t know why you argue with me about this David. Perhaps you take me completely literally. Or you’re feeling very anxious about it. I was addressing Phil, (elsewhere on this topic), and got to the point rather than subjecting him to turgid prose. The issue was discussed here well before you arrived, and I am hardly amazed to hear that other councils are inclusive online, nor… Read more »
watchdog
When I was more actively involved in scrutiny of Island planning applications than I am now, I did a rough statistical analysis of planning decisions. Unless there is a major application sent to the Planning Committee by the Head of Planning or by the Chairman of the Committee, or unless it is called in by a councillor, the default position is that planning applications are delegated to… Read more »
davidwalter
Watchdog — The truth is that 80% of the applications only represents 20% of the value of the projects while the top 20% of applications are between them worth 80% of the spend. Or thereabouts, averaged over time. It’s called the 80/20 rule and it is ubiquitous. Nobody expects LDCs, advertisement applications, new cycle racks, minor access layouts etc., to go to committee. Of the 20% by… Read more »
watchdog

DW: I was playing Devil’s Advocate a bit, so your additional remarks are welcome, of which I was aware and agree with you. Particularly crucial, though, are the remarks in your last two paragraphs.

Stewart Blackmore
In all the time that I have attended in the public gallery I have never seen the Chair vote on any substantive motion. This does not augur well for the future, especially on a 50:50 split where he has a (further) casting vote. There is precedent here because the Speaker of the Commons has, in recent years, when called upon to use his casting vote, always maintained… Read more »
davidwalter
Stewart, that isn’t what I would expect a prospective legislator to argue! We can’t be governed by ad-hoc precedent. The rules of the Council are absolutely clear. I found the rule from the IWC website and pasted into this discussion in less than two minutes. The wording is so simple, unambiguous and accessible that every citizen can understand it. If one doesn’t like the rules one should… Read more »
Mrs Retired Hack
You are perfectly entitled to your opinions, Mr Walter, but I raised this issue here in the first instance, and I did not do so for, in your words “an opportunity to hurl mud at a political opponent”. I would have raised it whatever the chairman’s party. I just wondered if the IWC chairman normally had two votes, and if so, why. It leads to an obvious… Read more »
davidwalter
Mrs RH — Yes, I realise that. The discussion has moved on a long way since your original post on that. I was directing my comment in Stewart’s direction starting my comment “Stewart, that isn’t what I would expect a prospective legislator to argue!” As to the discussion about ‘two votes’ and your comment about it being ‘an anachronism’ in some cases, I have already posted the… Read more »
Cynic

“A week’s notice”? Not quite David .

Art.16 states “Approval. Changes to the constitution by Full Council will only be approved by the Full
Council after consideration of the proposal by the monitoring officer.”

As Full Council meetings are monthly, it would probably be necessary to call an Extraordinary Full Council.

Stewart Blackmore
I think that you are just plain wrong David. The convention is quite clear as I have said elsewhere on this post, no matter what the Constitution says, that the Chair does not vote, except in deadlock and then (s)he votes for the status quo; and there are very good reasons for that. The Tories did not have a majority after May 2013 and, if the position… Read more »
Stewart Blackmore

Also, David, why shouldn’t a prospective legislator argue that? The precedent certainly is not ad hoc and, don’t forget, most of our common law is set by precedent, i.e. what a previous judgement has set out despite it not being enshrined in an Act of Parliament.

That, to some (and not necessarily me!), is one of the benefits of having an unwritten Constitution.

steve s

David,
You strike me as the kind of fellow who would encourage a batsman to stand his ground, even though he knows he got a big outside edge. It’s entirely within the rules. ;-)

Cynic

A West Indian Test cricketer told me once that he never “walked” on an appeal until the umpire gave him Out. because there were good decisions and bad decisions from umpires.

However, once given Out he would leave the field without any of the tantrums one sees today in cricket at all levels from school to Test.

davidwalter

Steve :-)

davidwalter
Cicero — Yes, would need an EFC. Not a big deal if the issue is a big deal? Stewart — Most of our Common Law has been enshrined into Parliamentary Law or Regulation of one kind or another. ‘Precedent’ in this context refers to ‘LEGAL Precedent’ i.e. where a Court has ruled and that ruling is accepted as the precedent until overruled by a higher court or… Read more »
Cynic

David- would changing one minor Article (·i.e. Art.16) in the Constitution rate as a “big deal”?

Robert Jones
You’re always going to get this problem – it may be rare, but it’ll happen again – if you allow the chairman a casting vote on elections, as opposed to motions before the council. It’s probably common practice – I imagine IWC took its constitution from a judicious mix of other authorities’ constitutions – but common practice isn’t necessarily good practice. There’s a well-established theory on casting… Read more »
davidwalter

Robert Jones, I agree with all that and you expressed it well.

retired Hack
Just to be clear, it was Cllr Ward’s use of his first vote, not his casting vote (he didn’t use his casting vote because there wasn’t a tie), which started this debate off. The casting vote is a useful, perhaps even necessary, device for breaking ties. The non-use of the chair’s first vote, as a quid pro quo for having a casting vote, is a well-establshed and… Read more »
Ex Chair
Generally, if it’s possible, the Chair should use their casting vote in favour of no change. Example: Let’s suppose a large housing proposal was tied for or against at a planning meeting. Whatever the Chairs view or previous vote after debate, I think the protocol is to cast the second (Chair) vote in favour of the no side. In other words, a contentious matter should not proceed… Read more »
retired Hack
@Ex Chair. You say: “In other words, a contentious matter should not proceed only because the Chair made it happen with a second vote.” So: suppose the planning committee chairmanship vote had been tied, Cllr Ward having voted for Cllr Hollis, plus an extra A.N Other having done likewise (perhaps Cllr Chapman or Cllr Blezzard, both of whom actually abstained), making it 18-18; then Cllr Ward, in… Read more »
Cynic
One approach is for a Chairman to have only a casting vote in the case of a tie and that vote would have to be cast in favour of the status quo ante i.e. the situation is restored to “the state in which previously” it existed. In this case,as the status quo was the lack of an incumbent as Chair of the Planning Committee it would mean… Read more »
davidwalter
Cicero — I was wondering the same. In this case it has merits but how would it would work in other cases? Will we see an Isle of Wight version of a Papal Conclave; an interminable series of black smoke followed by a puff of white and the (bemused) Julia B-S led to the Room of Tears to robe herself? Will she choose the red mozzetta to… Read more »
Cynic
David- the legal side looks pretty clear in the Constitution as you have pointed out. Cllr Hollis exercised his right to a personal vote as the Constitution allows. However, I suggest that this debate is more about the morality of the way that vote was cast. Hence my suggestion that a Chairman- acting as a Chairman- should be restricted to having a casting vote that he/she can… Read more »
martin William Wareham
Councillor Ward one Conservative Councillor I had respect for but he turns out to be just as bad as the rest come on Ian it does you no credit to act in this manner when Councillor Chapman abstained you should have done the same. You Torys are desperate you cant get over the voters on the Island they thought you were crap and voted you out Get… Read more »