Veteran councillor fights for life after collapsing following impassioned speech

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A veteran county councillor was today in intensive care after collapsing following an impassioned speech.

Coun Tony Jones, the longest serving member of Lancashire County Council, is understood to be in an induced coma at Blackpool Victoria Hospital following the drama at County Hall on Friday.

The former Tory had criticised the way the county council is being run and had warned Conservative councillors they risked incurring huge personal costs if they insisted on pushing ahead with a controversial management restructure.

Minutes later he slumped in his seat and collapsed.

Shocked councillors filed out of the chamber, many on the verge of tears, as efforts were made to revive him.

Those attempting to aid him included County Coun John Fillis, deputy leader of the Labour group who is a trained nurse and BBC Radio Lancashire reporter Mike Stevens who was sitting near the councillor when he collapsed.

A medical team arrived at County Hall within minutes.

Morecambe North Councillor Jones was first elected to the county council in 1985 and had served since that election.

He had faced a political crossroads recently when he resigned the Conservative whip.

At the time he declined to comment on why he had fallen out with the party he had so loyally represented for decades.

But the extraordinary meeting of the full council provided a platform for Coun Jones to express his concerns and fears.

The meeting had been called by the opposition Labour group to debate a three part motion which included a call for Tory council leader Coun Geoff Driver’s resignation.

The meeting had been noisy, with many councillors wanting to speak on the motion which also included a demand that any restructure be discussed transparently at full council.

Coun Driver is currently on bail facing allegations of perverting the course of justice and intimidating witnesses following the lengthy police investigation into the workings of One Connect.

Councillors had earlier been told by a Labour councillor that any claims of unfair dismissal by officers, especially if brought under whistleblowing legislation, could cost the council dearly.

Coun Jones of Hornby had taken his seat alongside another newly independent ex- Tory councillor and told the meeting: “The last piece of advice I gave to the Conservative group was that this matter was going to cost a great deal of money - the people of Lancashire should not have to pay on the back of an illegal decision.”

The meeting had been called to debate a three part resolution put by deputy Labour leader County Coun Fillis, which culminated in a no-confidence call for the resignation of Tory county council leader Coun Geoff Driver.

The resolution also raised concerns about council finances and demanded that the full council debate the proposed management restructure.

There has been much anger from opposition councillors at what was claimed to be the Conservative group’s steamrollering through of the restructure decision, without bringing it to full council for scrutiny.