Warwickshire County Council: Parent asks why leader 'chose to obscure' her decisions over SEND storm

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A SEND parent has questioned why the Conservative leader of Warwickshire County Council has “chosen to obscure” her role in party discipline amid the storm over three councillors.

Elissa Novak from Nuneaton addressed a meeting for all county councillors back in March, asking leader Councillor Izzi Seccombe OBE to make clear the difference between the council’s handling of a flurry of complaints and any shorter term choices that might have been made by the Tories.

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Investigation into complaints about Warwickshire councillors' controversial SEND...

Councillor Jeff Morgan questioned whether some children put forward for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) assessments were “just really badly behaved” and in need of “some form of strict correction”, Councillor Brian Hammersley (Con, Bedworth Central) asked whether a surge in demand was down to “something in the water” and Councillor Clare Golby referred to social media pages where “families are swapping tips on how to get their children diagnosed”

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Shire Hall in Warwick, which is home to Warwickshire County Council. Photo by Mike BakerShire Hall in Warwick, which is home to Warwickshire County Council. Photo by Mike Baker
Shire Hall in Warwick, which is home to Warwickshire County Council. Photo by Mike Baker

Cllr Seccombe distanced her administration from the comments but also resisted calls from opposition councillors and the public to remove the whip from all three – a political decision that cannot be taken by the council to banish them from the party while the investigation is live.

Who has the power to take that decision remains somewhat unclear with Cllr Seccombe telling the Local Democracy Reporting Service in March that she would “have to go through the group” and that it would be “an internal Conservative process”.

Ms Novak’s question was picked up by Green Party group leader Councillor Jonathan Chilvers (Leamington Brunswick) at the time. He was promised a written response that arrived 51 days later in which Cllr Seccombe said: “Any decision on the whip is for me to consider reflecting of course on all evidence available.”

Ms Novak argued that the disparity between those statements cast fresh doubt on Cllr Seccombe’s insistence that the comments were not representative of her administration.

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“Sadly there has been a pattern of slow responses and a sense of apathy from the Conservative group to the January meeting and the public reaction to this,” said Ms Novak.

“I can only assume that Councillor Seccombe has always known that the decision to remove the whip was her own. If this is the case, I'm not sure why she has chosen to obscure this from the public.

“Removing the whip is a standard part of political discipline. It does not force the councillors to resign and it does not stop them from standing for future election as independents. It's used to keep the party's house in order, demonstrating that behaviour not representative of the party's values will not be tolerated.

“In this case, Councillor Seccombe has repeatedly stated that the actions of councillors Morgan, Golby and Hammersley are not representative of the local Conservative Party and its values. The meeting was recorded, and there is no dispute about what was said. Not removing the whip in this context seems strange.

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“Perhaps Councillor Seccombe changed her mind and now feels the three councillors are representative of the local party? In any event, it's a shame she was not able to provide the leadership needed to be open about her decision making.

“Warwickshire families, children, and young people deserve transparency and decisive, engaged leadership. I hope this will be more forthcoming from now on.”

Cllr Seccombe declined to comment.