Vale housing chief survives attempt to oust her in wake of failed development plan as union stands up for top officers

Carole Paternoster
Carole Paternoster

Tory chiefs hit out at ‘disrespectful’ Liberal Democrats during a failed attempt to oust the district council’s development guru from her cabinet post.

Lib Dems called for Councillor Carole Paternoster, cabinet member for strategic planning, to quit after an inspector declared Aylesbury Vale’s development plan ‘unsound’.

But at a meeting on Monday night, Tory leaders at Aylesbury Vale District Council refused to take responsibility for the debacle, instead blaming the Government for ‘moving the goalposts’.

Lib Dems were also criticised for calling for the suspension of top officers, including the head of planning and chief executive, who earn more than a combined £190,000.

This request was withdrawn but the move was labelled ‘disrespectful in the extreme’, with Unison writing to express ‘extreme concern’ at the motion.

The inspector said the Vale of Aylesbury Plan was inadequate because the housing target, 6,000 homes on top of those already approved, was too low and that the council had failed to cooperate properly with nearby authorities.

Mrs Paternoster said other councils were unable to provide information on their housing targets.

She said: “It’s essential that all AVDC members work together to achieve the best possible outcome for residents of the Vale.

“This very divisive motion will not help us achieve this aim.”

The Lib Dems, Labour and the two independent councillors all argued that someone at the authority should take responsibility for the failure.

Lib Dem group leader, Councillor Steven Lambert, told Mrs Paternoster: “You were the one in the driving seat all the way through this.

“Where is your integrity?

“If I were the cabinet member responsible I would have resigned as a matter of principle.

“We should never have been in this situation.”

Labour’s Robin Stuchbury said it ‘beggared belief’ that no one at the council could be responsible, while independent Chris Richards said AVDC had been ‘led like a lamb to slaughter by naive simplistic decision-making’.

However, UKIP’s Chris Adams agreed that the Government had ‘made a mess’ and that localism had failed, adding that he didn’t like Mrs Paternoster being ‘scapegoated’.

Although attempts to get officers suspended were withdrawn, a letter from Unison was distributed saying: “We feel that it is a disgrace that certain councillors have used the motion to call for the suspension of staff without making allegations of misconduct.”

Senior Tories described the attack on officers as ‘outrageous’ and called for an apology, which was not made.

The council will debate withdrawing the Vale plan and making a new one at a meeting on February 5.