The simmering unrest within the Tory group on South Ribble Council erupted on Wednesday night and claimed its first casualties.
The three rising stars of the cabinet – brought in only a year ago to inject some youthful energy into an ageing top committee – departed amid bitter recriminations over the taxi licensing scandal.
Two, Michael Green and Caroline Moon, refused to continue – claiming their positions had become “untenable” due to false opposition claims of a cover-up. The third, Warren Bennett, was removed by embattled leader Coun Margaret Smith just 48 hours after leaving his job as her deputy.
During a stormy council meeting, the trio, who had all been tipped as possible future leaders, made a dignified exit leaving the cabinet with only five members, a situation Labour leader Paul Foster seized upon and branded “toxic.”
“Is this what this council has come to, that we don’t fill cabinet positions?” he said. “The borough is in meltdown. There is no leadership, no structure. And unless the leader shows some decisive leadership, gets these cabinet positions filled and gets this council back on the straight and narrow, we will have no option than to express no confidence in her.”
Coun Moon, who refused to continue after a successful first year as the portfolio holder for corporate support, said she was “saddened” to see that key job would no longer be done.
She added: “While my credibility and integrity remain in doubt then my position on cabinet remains untenable. The false and defamatory allegation that I am in some way involved in a cover-up couldn’t be further from the truth.”