Council in “freefall” over leadership woes

PHOTO. KEVIN McGUINNESS. Councillor Peter Mullineaux
PHOTO. KEVIN McGUINNESS. Councillor Peter Mullineaux

Troubled South Ribble Council was described as being “in freefall” this week as urgent action over its leadership was demanded.

Councillor Peter Mullineaux was voted leader of the local Conservative group at a special meeting three weeks, but will not take charge until it is ratified at a full council meeting.

That is only due to take place on September 15 – a week after an important, decision-making cabinet meeting.

Councillor Colin Clark has been placed as interim council leader.

South Ribble Council currently has no party in overall control.

On top of all this, chief executive Mike Nuttall has also resigned to pursue new opportunities.

But councillor Foster says an already “damaged” authority is in need of strong leadership and that the time for action is right now.

He was due to meet the chief executive yesterday in an effort to resolve the situation.

Councillor Foster said: “I’ve been in detailed dialogue over this for the past few weeks.

“I think it’s critically important, now the chief executive is going to leave, to get a new executive of the council in position quickly.

“The council is in freefall at the moment and really needs

some strong leadership.

“We’ve got an interim leader who’s not actually leader of any political party on the council.

“Another thing, it’s just an assumption by the Conservative group they’re in control of the council when they’re not – it’s just madness.

“I’m speaking to the chief executive, demanding a meeting of the full council in five to seven days.

“We’ve got to get an executive in place prior to the meeting of the council. We haven’t even got a full cabinet in place at the moment.

“It’s exacerbating an already serious situation.

“They elected a new leader three weeks ago. It’s just not good enough.

“It’s politics prioritised over the borough yet again.

“The council is already damaged enough.

“The Conservative promised all the workers, staff and residents we’d work together to try to solve this. I’ve not seen anything from them.”

Councillor Peter Mullineaux rejected councillor Foster’s comments.

He said: “It’s nothing about being rudderless and I’ve said to Paul Foster the reason we’ve called it on September 15 is because of holidays.

“This is an extraordinary meeting that’s been called. It’s not on the diary, we’ve lots of people on holiday and there’s lots of other things taking place. We’ve got to get the mayor’s decision.

“That was the earliest and best time due to other commitments and things going on in the council and I would want to have as many people at that meeting as possible.

“We appreciate things need to be done and they’re being done behind the scenes.

“Colin Clark is in place as interim leader.

“As for Paul Foster trying to imply nothing is being done at the council that’s not true as far as I’m concerned.”

As regards councillor Foster’s description of the authority being in “freefall” he said: “I don’t believe that at all.

“We’ve obviously had problems and are addressing them at the moment.”

Independent Conservative councillor Paul Wharton, who quit the Conservative group over a leadership row in July, described the authority as “a laughing stock” and said he supported councillor Foster’s call.

He said: “I completely support it. The council can’t be left in limbo for over a month.

“There’s a cabinet meeting the week before full council on September 15 when important decisions will be taken on the forward plan

“How can you make strong and challenging decisions.

“Peter is leader of the Conservative group who don’t hold a majority and Colin is leader of the council and they’re not working together.

“I don’t support Peter in any way, shape or form.”