Row erupts over boycott of centenary celebrations

Fracking rigs like this one are a common site in America.
Fracking rigs like this one are a common site in America.
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A row has erupted after a senior councillor announced he would boycott the Chamber of Commerce centenary celebrations, over a conflicting stance on fracking.

Coun John Swindells, Preston Council’s deputy leader, was asked to read in church as part of the event, but said it would be “hypocritical” to take part.

But the city’s Conservative group say the refusal could jeopardise the council’s relationship with the Chamber, and lead to “reciprocal action”.

Coun Swindells was asked to do the reading at Preston Minster on Tuesday in the absence of council leader Peter Rankin, following a civic proclamation on the Flag Market.

But he said: “I think my stance on fracking has been well known for some time, I was one of the protestors outside County Hall.

“The Chamber’s position is also well known and I think it would be hypocritical to support celebrations of a group that supports fracking so strongly.

“That’s my personal view and I’ve not asked anybody else to support that view.

“Coun Rankin was asked to speak at it and is away, so that would be my role normally, but I had already decided I wasn’t going anyway.”

Coun Neil Cartwright, the leader of Preston’s Conservative group said: “It would be wrong to jeopardise the relationship with the Chamber of Commerce by personal opinions of councillors making political gestures.

“The deputy leader of Preston City Council should display more responsibility and not be dragged into this gesturing.

“To be seen to be boycotting the centenary of the Chamber of Commerce could lead to a reciprocal action by the Chamber of Commerce on an important civic event and to go down this road would leave the Council open to criticism.

“We should all be supporting our business partners and retain this important link with the Chamber of Commerce and the city council which is far more important than any personal view expressed an any subject whatsoever by a single councillor.”

Nobody at the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce was available when approached by the Lancashire Evening Post.