Move to remove under-fire South Ribble Council leader collapses

Coun Claire Hamilton and Coun Paul Wharton
Coun Claire Hamilton and Coun Paul Wharton
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A motion to remove the leader of South Ribble Council from power has collapsed.

Two Tory Councillors - husband and wife Mike and Barbara Nathan - who signed a letter calling for a special meeting to discuss no confidence in Coun Margaret Smith - have withdrawn their support days after the document was submitted to the chief executive.

Coun Margaret Smith

Coun Margaret Smith

Other signatories, Conservative Coun Paul Wharton and Labour Councillors Claire Hamilton and Matthew Tomlinson remain, but 10 per cent of the council - five councillors - are needed to call for a special council meeting.

Coun Mike Nathan declined to comment, his wife was unavailable for comment.

Coun Wharton said he intends to submit a new motion, saying Coun Smith’s position is “untenable” because of her handling of a taxi licensing investigation.

He said: “It’s very frustrating and disappointing, and it’s dragging things out. But I’m determined to put another motion in.”

Coun Hamilton said: “If you sign a motion on Thursday, how can you back out of it on the following Wednesday?

“I’m frutsrated about it because it would have been good for the council to discuss how Margaret has handled the taxi licencing issue and her position as leader.”

A month ago a secret report into child sexual exploitation by two taxi drivers was leaked to the press. In it the council was criticised for failing to carry out proper background checks. Since then a new probe has been launched into how a cabbie who tied up a disabled boy had his licence renewed.

The council and its leader have been criticised for failing to make the report public.

Coun Smith insists she has done nothing wrong and still has the confidence of the South Ribble people.

The report is expected to go to council’s scrutiny committee next month.