BREAKING: Lancashire council leader survives bid to topple him

Geoff DriverGeoff Driver
Geoff Driver
The leader of Lancashire County Council has today survived a bid to topple him.

A vote of no confidence in Tory boss Coun Geoff Driver was defeated by 45 votes to 34 with one abstention at an extraordinary meeting of the council this afternoon.

But before the vote there was a noisy exchange between Labour, Tory and independent councillors about the way a senior management restructure, including the axing of Chief executive Jo Turton's post, is being pushed through the council without open debate.

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Labour leader Coun Azhar Ali said the situation was "absolutely shambolic."

He continued: "The council is in paralysis. It's not what I'm saying it's what the people of Lancashire are saying...This is about what's in the best interest of the people of Lancashire."

He warned the changes would cost the council millions and those senior staff who are being made redundant might seek to claim damages against the council, which would push costs even higher.

He told councillors: "The council is chaotic, shambolic and shifty and it is down to one man."

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Deputy Labour group leader Coun John Fillis said there was no evidence that the changes would save the Council money.

Earlier former Council Leader Jenny Mein questioned why an interim Chief Executive was being appointed. She said: "I think it's appalling. I cannot believe a leader thinks that's the right way to go about it."

She told Coun Driver: "You've got what you wanted. In this vacuum you've got total control. You gave our current Chief Executive notice back in July. It will cost us millions.... we are in chaos with officers unable to take decisions. "

Labour Coun Lizzi Collinge highlighted Coun Driver's previous instruction for senior officers not to attend briefings with him. She said if he could not speak freely with senior officers, for whatever reason, he could not lead the council effectively.

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She said "The people of Lancashire deserve competent leadership whichever party is in power."

Independent councillor Liz Oades apologised to the senior officers who face possible redundancy. She said they had had to listen to their roles and futures being discussed without being able to comment . She added that the management restructure was destabilising.. and backed the no confidence motion.

But Tory councillor Andrew Gardiner spoke out explaining why he was backing Coun Driver - to sort out Labour' s mess from the previous administration.

He said : "We have to produce services people can rely on."

He claimed the current management structure saw officers duplicating jobs and was not fit for purpose.

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He declared: "We elect our leader and if we want to get rid of our leader s make that decision. Nobody else"

Today's meeting was a continuation of a meeting held in September when labour moved a three part motion which culminated in a call for Coun Driver to resign immediately.

Coun John Fillis, Deputy Labour leader proposed the motion which included a call for the council to fully debate the council' s management restructure and its effect on services " in a transparent way" and warned of a "devastating effect" upon services.

Coun Driver declined to comment after the meeting.