BREAKING: Council leader quits

The embattled leader of South Ribble Council has quit in a shock move this evening.

South Ribble Council leader Margaret Smith
South Ribble Council leader Margaret Smith

Coun Margaret Smith was not present at tonight’s council meeting and her resignation letter was read out to a shocked hall.

She had faced calls to quit following her handling of a secret report into taxi drivers abusing their young clients and had been reported to police over her alleged failure to disclose business interests.

Council chief executive Mike Nuttall read out her letter. It said: “It has been my honour and pleasure to serve South Ribble.

She expressed thanks to staff who she worked with as leader for the past nine years and added: “I’d like to wish the council and its members all the best for the future.”

Coun Smith’s husband, Coun Phil Smith, was also absent from the meeting.

Mayor Linda Woollard said her colleague’s decision was “due to recent ill health”.

Deputy leader Colin Clark was voted in unanimously as interim leader.

He said he was “humbled and saddened at the same time”.

Coun Paul Foster, leader of the Labour opposition seconded Clark as leader but said he would start work trying to form a coalition.