Posted by: westlancashirerecord | October 16, 2018

Conservative Cock-up In Scandal Hit South Ribble

The Lancashire Post  and the BBC report that Labour has taken control of a Tory majority council following an “internal war” amongst Conservatives. South Ribble Borough Council leader Mary Green resigned on Monday saying she had been subject to “threatening behaviour”. Losing one leader may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose three in as many years looks like carelessness. South Ribble Council has been mired in scandal since early 2016 and never seems to have recovered.

At the heart of the authority’s problems, is a huge split in the ruling Conservative group. As the council staggers and sways from leader to leader, there are many in the borough crying out for stability, urging councillors to get their act together.

Labour councillor Paul Foster  was voted the new boss at a meeting hours later after his party and Lib Dems formed a minority administration. Mr Foster becomes the fourth leader in just over two years.

An ‘extraordinary meeting’ of South Ribble Council lived up to its name when the Conservative-led authority installed a Labour leader to run the borough. Paul Foster was voted in to the top job, just hours after former leader Mary Green quit the role.

Deputy leader of the authority, Cllr Caroline Moon, told the meeting that Conservative party rules meant the group could not nominate a new council leader until it had elected a leader of the party and she then sought to adjourn the meeting until November.But the absence of nine Conservative councillors meant the group was minus its usual working majority and Cllr Moon’s request was rejected.

Liberal Democrat leader David Howarth, who had called the meeting, was left unimpressed. “We are here to elect a leader of this council…and this council is not run by the standing orders of the Conservative group,” he said. Cllr Howarth also criticised Cllr Green for a “lack of judgement”, but praised her time as mayor describing the outgoing leader as an “excellent ambassador for the borough in that capacity”.

Meanwhile, Labour condemned those who had failed to attend the meeting, claiming it was part of a “boycott”. “Each and every one of the South Ribble Conservative group should resign first thing in the morning,” Cllr Foster said. “You are the ruling party and you have a responsibility to lead this council,” he added. But after Cllr Foster was himself nominated to take over the authority, the Conservatives did put forward their own nomination Cllr Moon.

Cabinet member Warren Bennett defended the move, telling the meeting that party rules meant only the deputy leader could be nominated. And he denied that there had been a boycott.

“A member could not be proposed from the Conservative group other than the acting leader. Caroline Moon has not just been proposed because [there has been] a Labour nomination. It was the Liberals and Labour who brought this motion, it wasn’t brought by the Conservative Party,” he said. “There are lots of insinuations about why people aren’t here tonight, but there are lots of reasons why people don’t attend an emergency meeting – it’s not in everybody’s diary, it’s just a fact,” Cllr Bennett said. Cllr Foster was approved as leader by 20 votes to 19, with one abstention – meaning Cllr Moon’s nomination was not formally considered. Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Foster said “We’re going to take control of this council and, whether it’s for three weeks or three months, we’ll do right by the residents”.

Cllr Howarth predicted that the “factionalised” Conservative group would call their own extraordinary meeting at a later date to try to reinstall a Tory leader. Coun Moon was unavailable for comment after the meeting. The new cabinet at South Ribble comprises Cllrs Paul Foster, Mick Titherington, Sue Jones, Jane Bell, Matthew Tomlinson and William Evans. Individual portfolios will be announced shortly.

South Rabble Conservatives, as they are now known, are paid a basic £4,605 annual allowance, + the usual perks for office. They should be fined for their absence! 


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