A move to unseat the leader of Ribble Valley Borough Council has failed.
A bid to oust the under-fire leader was defeated by 19 votes to 13 and one abstention during an emotion-packed meeting last night with nearly all Conservative councillors present rallying round Coun. Ken Hind.
Presenting the motion, the Lib. Dem. leader of the council, Coun. Allan Knox, told a packed chamber that the council’s own chief executive had previously said that Coun.Hind had undermined the council and acted in an intimidating manner.
He said: “I have been a councillor for 21 years and the last few months on this council have been the most chaotic on all my time here. We have seen defections, infighting and complaints none of which helps us serve the public any better.”
Chief executive Marshall Scott had previously said that there was such a level of intimidation and interference by Coun. Hind regarding a complaint made to the council, that because of his duty of care for his staff, he was not allowing the complaint to proceed any further.
“I have to say that this is an incredibly serious charge and any councillor facing it should consider his position,” said Coun. Knox.
And he added that since Coun. Hind is quoted in a recent newspaper article refuting this charge councillors now had to make a decision.
“Do we believe the chairman of the policy and finance committee (Coun. Hind) or the chief executive?” Coun. Knox asked.
However, in response, Coun. Hind said he “strongly opposed” the motion of no confidence suggesting it was no more than a political stunt in the run up to May’s local government elections by the Lib. Dem. leader in allegiance with five dissident Conservatives who have recently formed their own political group on the council – the Democratic Conservatives.
Coun. Hind said his reputation had been “dragged through the mud” after reports regarding allegations about his conduct were featured in a local newspaper without him being able to respond.
He said he had been a victim of “trial by media” after documents were leaked to the press regarding the unresolved complaint.
And he added that whoever leaked the papers to the press was responsible for causing damage to the council's reputation.
Coun. Hind asked for the council's complaints procedure be looked at so that the council does not end up in this situation again.
However, Coun. Terry Hill, who is one of five councillors who left the Conservative group on RVBC to form their own group, the Democratic Conservatives, called Coun. Hind "a tribal politician".
He said the aim of the motion of no confidence was not to install a new chairman of the council's policy and finance committee, but to remove the current one, Coun. Hind, who "we believe is not a fit and proper person to carry out that role".
Coun. Hill said he understood the pressure that the Conservative group is under and suggested that a secret ballot be held.
However, this was met with shouts of "disgraceful" from the public gallery with the Conservative Coun. Ged Mirfin proposing that there should be a recorded vote.
Conservative Coun. Simon Hore, who voted for the motion of no confidence, said that he had been told that if he voted for the motion then he should resign which he said amounted to intimidation.
After the vote had been taken, Coun. Allan Knox asked the chairman of the council's personnel committee Coun. Rosemary Elms, what interventions have been taken to prevent interference and intimidation and what further interventions will she personally take "to stamp this out"?
In reponse, Coun Elms said that she does not condone interference or intimidation in any situation or circumstance.
She said that relationships between members and officers are underpinned by the Member Officer Protocol in the council's constitution which stresses the need for mutual respect between councillors and officers, based on an understanding of their respective roles and on the need to maintain the highest standard of personal and professional conduct at all times.
"All members have recently been reminded of their roles and responsibilities in respect of the protocol at each of the committees in the last cycle of meetings," she said. "As an elected member I take my responsibilities as a councillor very seriously and adhere wholeheartedly to the rules and protocols associated with my role. I would expect and require nothing less from my fellow councillors."