Meeting documents

Thursday, 15th September, 2016

Place: Shield Room, Civic Centre, West Paddock, Leyland, PR25 1DH

 Present: Councillor Mrs Woollard (Mayor)

Councillors Mrs Ball, Ms Bell, Bennett, Bird, Mrs Blow, Clark, Coulton, Donoghue, Evans, Forrest, Foster, Mrs Mary Green, Michael Green, Miss Hamilton, G Hancock, Hesketh, Higgins, Howarth, Hughes, K Jones, Mrs S Jones, Marsh, Martin, Ms Mawson, Mrs Moon, Mrs Mort, Mullineaux, Mrs B Nathan, M Nathan, Nelson, Mrs Noblet, Ogilvie, Patten, Rainsbury, Mrs M Smith, P Smith, Mrs Snape, C Tomlinson, M Tomlinson, G Walton, Mrs K Walton, Watkinson, Watts, Wharton, Woodcock, Wooldridge and Yates
 In attendance: The Director of Development, Enterprise and Communities (Denise Johnson), the Democratic Services Manager (Martin O'Loughlin) and Democratic Services Officer (Carol Eddleston)
 Public attendance: 10
 Other Officers: 40

Item Description/Resolution Status Action
39 Apologies for Absence

Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Councillor Titherington.

40 Declarations of Interest

There were no declarations of interest.

41 Notice of Motion

The Mayor read out a letter from Councillor Clark in which he announced his resignation from the position of Executive Leader of the Council,

This agenda item was subsequently withdrawn.

42 Nomination and Election of Executive Leader

The Mayor drew the meeting?s attention to the agenda on which Councillor Mullineaux was nominated as Executive Leader. She invited other nominations.

Councillor Wooldridge stood to nominate Councillor Foster, stating that he opposed the nomination of Councillor Mullineaux due to the corporate failure of the Council. Tonight?s meeting afforded members an opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder to take control and bring stability to the Council. The current administration had failed officers and members and Councillor Foster would bring change and stability.

Councillor Howarth said that he had attended staff briefings with representatives from the Conservative and Labour groups, where assurances had been given to officers that councillors would work together to rebuild the reputation of this Council. In his many years? tenure on this Council he had always considered it to be well run but, sadly, he no longer thought so. He had proposed to the Conservative leadership that a Labour / Conservative Cabinet would be in the best interests of the Council moving forward, but had done so to no avail. He seconded the nomination of Councillor Foster as Executive Leader.

Councillor K Jones pointed out that the majority of South Ribble elected members worked long and hard in the best interests of local residents. Given the failures that had come to light, the Council now had to pick up the pieces and restore some normality, although he acknowledged that this would not be easy. He called on all councillors to examine their conscience when it came to the vote and urged them to abstain if they did not want to see a Labour leader elected. The Council needed a new team and he urged members to have the courage to vote for one.

Councillor M Tomlinson observed that it was hardly surprising that the Labour and Liberal Democrat groups had nominated Councillor Foster, given that the Conservative group was at war within itself, and the Cabinet had dragged the council ?through the mud? and ruined its reputation. He said that Councillor Mullineaux had failed to grasp the enormity of what had gone on and had not sought to get more involved. He believed that the Council needed a Leader who had the full support of his political group, was untainted by the past and could lead the Council forward. Councillor Foster led from the front, had regularly challenged the Cabinet, had reached out to councillors from other parties and had the full support of his political group. He was far better qualified and more capable to lead the Council moving forward.

Councillor Watts foresaw that Councillor Mullineaux would not command sufficient votes to secure election and he believed that, if Councillor Foster became Leader, the Council would be fulfilling its obligations in terms of openness and transparency.

Councillor Ms Bell said that she had consulted a Thesaurus for alternative words for ?leader? and these included, among many others, ?director?, ?governor? and ?ringmaster?. The qualities expected of a ?leader? were interesting and numerous, including honesty, confidence, clear vision, transparency, integrity, passion, accountability and generosity. She pondered whether Councillor Mullineaux possessed the qualities needed to take this Council forward at a time when it was under the microscope locally, regionally and nationally. She urged all members to think carefully before they voted on such an important issue.

Councillor Wharton said that he had no personal grievance with Councillor Mullineaux but was sad that he was ?surrounded by the old guard? and he believed that the Council needed a full change of executive to help it move forward following recent failings. Councillor Wharton was not prepared to compromise on the future of this borough and he would put local residents before any other consideration.

Councillor Clark stood to say that he believed that Councillor Mullineaux possessed the qualities and characteristics referred to by Councillor Ms Bell and that was why he would be supporting Councillor Mullineaux? nomination.

Councillor Clark took exception to comments from Councillors M Tomlinson and Wharton which seemed to suggest that he had been involved in some of the ?failings?. He pointed out that he had not been involved and asked for both members to apologise. Councillor Wharton rose to apologise and stressed that he had referred to the former Leader, Councillor Mrs Smith, not to Councillor Clark as the former Interim Leader. Councillor Clark accepted the apology.

Councillor Foster said that this was not a Conservative/Liberal Democrat/Labour ideological battle, it was gross incompetence from an Executive which would ?stop at nothing to retain power?. The decision taken tonight should be based on what was morally right for the Council, staff and the borough. The political whip had no place in a vote of this nature.

Councillor Foster took the opportunity to share information about the External Auditors? likely findings on the audited Statement of Accounts, including the Annual Governance Statement. He said that direct questions were being asked of senior civil servants at Westminster and Chorley Borough Council had serious concerns about the future of the Shared Services partnership. He said that there were no interim arrangements in place in relation to the statutory role of Section 151 Officer once the Chief Executive left in early October. The Local Government Act 2000 made it clear that local authorities had a duty to deliver effective community leadership but this Council was currently failing to meet any of its stated values. He considered that this Council had a moral obligation to bring excellence back to the borough.

Councillor Michael Green stated that some things had happened which should not have happened. The Council clearly needed change and the first step in this was awareness. He believed that both candidates were aware of the need for change. The second step was acceptance that change was needed and would be delivered. He could not recall a time when Labour group members did not vote along party lines and he suspected that all the political groups would be whipped this evening. He would be voting for a leader and would expect that leader to deliver a Council that its residents deserved.

Councillor Clark said he did not know how members could vote for a leader who was economical with the truth. Councillor Clark had put in place plans for moving forward and a replacement would be in place when the current S151 Officer left the employ of the Council.

Councillor Foster asked the Director of Development, Enterprise and Communities to forward to all members an email that he had sent to her & to the Head of Shared Financial Services and to the reply he had had which suggested that this issue had been missed. Councillor Foster said that he was not a liar and was fed up of these ?smears?.
The Director of Development, Enterprise and Communities agreed to circulate the email as requested.

Councillor Evans said that he had not been whipped but could not vote for Councillor Mullineaux whom he believed to be part of the problem, not the solution.

Councillor Clark proposed the nomination of Councillor Mullineaux as Executive Leader. Councillor Yates seconded the nomination.

From the audience, the chair of the local branch of UNISON pointed out that, at the last Council meeting, Councillor Clark was appointed as Interim Leader and had said that he was fully committed to resolving the situation. Employees had taken solace from this, and from the employee briefings where group leaders had said that they would put politics aside, and officers had believed that we were ?on the cusp of something good?. He asked Councillor Clark to outline what had been done to resolve the situation since the briefing in July. Employees and members of the public were alarmed that politics still appeared to be being played. He asked all members to consider if they could hold their heads up high when they made their minds up on the way they were going to vote. He said that it was surely not right that two employees were still suspended. He urged the Council to change and to work together in order to move forward.

Councillor Clark agreed that he had made promises and that he had been in touch with the chairman of the local UNISON branch in the last two months. He had been elected as Leader at the last Council meeting and, had it not been for the Notice of Motion on tonight?s agenda, he may well have continued in the role.

Councillor Foster pointed out that on the day Councillor Mrs Smith had resigned, he had sat with Councillor Clark who had said that he would remain as Interim Leader of the Council until the Conservative group elected a new leader. Councillor Foster was sorry that it had not been possible to come up with a collaborative agreement. He said the Labour group had heard nothing from the Conservative group in the last two and a half weeks. The Labour, Liberal Democrat and Independent groups had all tried to collaborate.

Councillor Mullineaux said that he had tried his best to get a working agreement with members of the opposition. He had said from the start that his main priority was to support staff and to get stability within the Council. The Conservative group would move forward and would not listen to the ?absolute rubbish? that had been talked this evening.

Councillor Mrs Ball said that she had listened to both sides this evening and said that the Independent group had had no communication from the Conservative group until the previous evening, at which time it was stated that if its members did not vote for Councillor Mullineaux they would not be allowed back into the Conservative group. She confirmed that the Independent Group would be voting for Councillor Foster.

Councillor Yates stood to request a recorded vote and he was supported in this by a further 11 members of the Conservative group.

The Mayor invited members to indicate whether they wished to vote for either Councillor Foster or Councillor Mullineaux.

The votes for Councillor Foster were as follows (24):

Councillors Mrs Ball, Ms Bell, Donoghue, Evans, Forrest, Foster, Ms Hamilton, Hancock, Higgins, Howarth, K Jones, Mrs S Jones, Martin, Miss Mawson, Mrs B Nathan, M Nathan, Patten, C Tomlinson, M Tomlinson, Watkinson, Watts, Wharton, Woodcock and Wooldridge.

The votes for Councillor Mullineaux were as follows (24):

Councillors Bennett, Bird, Mrs Blow, Clark, Coulton, Mrs Mary Green, Michael Green, Hesketh, Hughes, Marsh, Mrs Moon, Mrs Mort, Mullineaux, Nelson, Mrs Noblet, Ogilvie, Rainsbury, Mrs M Smith, P Smith, Mrs Snape, G Walton, Mrs K Walton, Mrs Woollard and Yates

As the vote was tied the Mayor used her casting vote to vote for Councillor Mullineaux.

That Councillor Mullineaux be elected Executive Leader of the Council.

43 Establishment of an Appointment and Employment Panel for Statutory Officers
Report attached
Appendix A attached

Councillor Mullineaux presented the report. The report was seconded.

The Mayor invited additional nominations to the Appointments and Employment Panel. Councillor Mullineaux nominated Councillor Mrs Mort as the additional Conservative member and Councillor Foster indicated that he would await the outcome of the vote on the item before submitting any additional nomination from the Labour group.

In response to a question from Councillor Howarth about possible alternative arrangements should the recommendation in the report be rejected, Councillor Mullineaux pointed out that it was a statutory requirement to have such a panel in place; any failure to approve the recommendation tonight would mean that any appointment and disciplinary proceedings would have to be put on hold.

Councillor Ogilvie reminded the meeting that a previous version of this report had been considered by the Governance Committee prior to full Council. Timescales had not permitted this this time but the report was generally broadly similar to the procedure which had been considered by Governance Committee. He observed that the proposed division of duties within the panel meant that at least two of its members needed to be members of the Cabinet.

In response to questions from Councillor Howarth about the timing of the outgoing Chief Executive?s resignation, Councillor Clark explained that when he was appointed Interim Leader he had been informed by the Head of Human Resources that he had received a letter of resignation. Therefore it would not have been possible to bring this report to the last meeting of Council.

Councillor P Smith stressed the need for the recommendation in the report to be agreed this evening so that the Council could move forward, appoint a new Chief Executive and get itself back on track.

From the audience, a member of the public observed that the Independent group was now the third largest group on the Council and he wondered whether it would therefore be appropriate for its members to be represented on the panel. He referred to the reduced employee numbers and the ever decreasing budget and expressed his hope that the salary package would be reviewed accordingly. He also expressed his hope that the private sector might be given a ?fair crack of the whip? and that there might be a suitable candidate from the ?real world? of business rather than ?another council clone?. He enquired whether members of the public might have an opportunity to air their views on the appointment.

Councillor Mullineaux said that he would happy to provide responses if the member of the public could put the questions in writing to him. In the meantime he explained that, at the time the report was drafted, there were only three official groups on the Council. Political balance of the council?s committees was governed by legislation and it was within his remit, as Leader, to allocate seats to the political groups.

The Mayor invited members to vote on the recommendation in the report.

RESOLVED (YES ? 22, NO ? 24):
That the establishment of an Appointments and Employment Panel for Statutory Officers not be approved.

Not Agreed   

  Published on Tuesday 27 September 2016
The meeting ended at 7.29pm.

As the meeting was closing Councillor Mullineaux took the opportunity to thank the members of his group for their support. He extended special thanks to staff who continued to work to the best of their ability in difficult circumstances. He said that as the new Leader he would endeavour to work closely with the opposition. He also took the opportunity to announce his Cabinet: Cllr Clark ? (Deputy Leader) Corporate Support and Assets, Cllr Hughes ? Strategic Planning and Housing, Cllr Mrs Mort ? Public Health, Safety and Wellbeing, Cllr P Smith ? Regeneration and Leisure, Cllr Mrs Snape ? Finance, and Cllr G Walton ? Neighbourhoods and Streetscene.