South Ribble council leader survives vote of no confidence

Coun Peter Mullineaux remains leader of South Ribble Council
Coun Peter Mullineaux remains leader of South Ribble Council

An evening of twists and turns saw the Tory leader of South Ribble Council keep his post despite an attempt to replace him.

A vote of no confidence in Coun Peter Mullineaux failed at an extraordinary council meeting on Wednesday, meaning the status quo was maintained at the troubled authority.

The Labour opposition had tabled a motion calling for the leader and cabinet to step aside citing a list of failures, including the ruling group’s struggles to pass its 2018/19 budget.

READ MORE: Labour eye up shock coup at South Ribble

But the meeting may well be remembered for Tory members voting against an amended motion put forward by one of their own group, who himself voted against it.

Labour leader Coun Paul Foster had earlier told the meeting his party’s move was not a “power grab” but a reaction to “incompetent” leadership.

If it had gone to a vote and garnered enough support, the original motion called for the chamber to nominate a new leader who could then appoint a cabinet.

However, Coun Michael Green (Conservative) proposed an amendment for the vote of no confidence to apply to the leader only, not the cabinet, and for Coun Colin Clark to take over as interim leader. This was accepted by Labour but when it came to a vote, Tory members opposed it, with the support of the South Ribble Independents pair.

The motion was therefore defeated, meaning Coun Mullineaux (pictured)- who was not present because he had attended a family funeral earlier in the day - remained in post.

Speaking after the meeting, Coun Green said his decision to vote against his own amendment was governed by the "rules of debate" and he was "somewhat surprised" Labour accepted it.

He said: "We could have just voted against the original motion but it was important to take out any criticism of the cabinet.

"I'm conscious for a member of the public who isn't used to regular council meetings, it's quite a tricky set of rules for debate and you've got to walk through the constitution carefully.

"But it was all done according to the rules and we've got the outcome of continuing with the leader."

He added: "The group continues with Coun Mullineaux as the leader and that will continue until future meetings down the line. You've just seen tonight that all the group and independent members voted to keep Coun Mullineaux as the leader.

"The group every year elects its leader.

"There's a lot to do, what we will do as a Conservative administration is ensure that we deliver effective and efficient services for the people of South Ribble."

Also speaking after the conclusion of the meeting, Coun Foster, leader of the Labour group, said: "We had no option but to bring this motion because the executive is working in such an appalling manner, we can't support it any longer."

On accepting the Tory amendment, he added: "Fundamentally what we needed to see was a change of leadership, the amendment still had a change of leadership at this council.

"This wasn't a power grab so by inserting Coun Clark as an interim leader was neither here nor there to us, but ultimately the motion was the same. We want to move forward and we would have done a disservice by not allowing that to happen, that's why we allowed it."

Asked whether he felt let down by the Tory group who voted against the amendment, Coun Foster added: "The residents should feel let down by them because they're playing games, again."