Four Tory councillors quit group in leadership row

South Ribble Council has been left with no party having overall control, following the resignation of four Tory councillors from the group.

Sunday, 17th July 2016, 2:38 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 8:15 pm
Paul Wharton

Coun Paul Wharton had been due to appear before a disciplinary meeting of the group at South Ribble Civic centre on Saturday. He had previously led a vote of no confidence in council leader, Margaret Smith.

However, he and three fellow Conservative councillors resigned from the group before the meeting.

Coun Wharton, Couns Barbara Nathan and Michael Nathan and Coun Andrea Ball will now sit as Independent Conservatives.

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Councillor Margaret Smith

Coun Wharton said they had been left with no other option but to quit the group and has now called for the leader to resign.

He said: “The meeting didn’t happen because we resigned prior to the meeting.

“We resigned due to significant failures in the leadership. We can’t support (Margaret Smith) any longer.

“This leaves the council in no overall control.

Councillor Margaret Smith

“A lot of work needs to be done to rebuild the reputation of the council. It is in tatters.

“Margaret Smith has to resign.”

Coun Wharton had previously criticised the leader for not releasing the interim report into a taxi investigation, launched after reports of child sexual exploitation of two girls by taxi drivers.

The secret report was leaked to the press in April, months after being sent to the council.

The council was criticised in it for failing to carry out proper background checks on drivers, and since then a new probe has been launched into how a cabbie who tied up a disabled boy had his licence renewed.

Coun Ball said she had resigned the whip after feeling “bullied” by some party members.

She said: “My main concern is my constituents. I felt I was being stopped from doing my job. We want South Ribble to be back where it should be. We need to try to unite everybody.”

The Evening Post has so far not been able to reach Coun Smith for comment on the councillors’ resignations.