Burnley Wood community centre row: council chief hits back

Steve Rumbelow
Steve Rumbelow

Burnley Council’s chief executive was forced to defend his position and his staff after a row broke out at a meeting.

Mr Steve Rumbelow took the unprecedented step of addressing the chamber at a meeting of the full borough council after Liberal Democrat Coun. Jeff Sumner accused the council and Labour councillors of misleading voters.

The allegations, which were also strongly refuted by the town’s Labour group, relate to the proposed demolition of Glebe Street Community Centre, Burnley Wood.

Coun. Sumner, who stormed out of the meeting when the allegations were refuted, claimed Labour group leader Coun. Julie Cooper and senior officers conspired to mislead other councillors and the public over the redevelopment of the centre. He also called for a full investigation.

“I have in my possession a leaflet written in the name of councillors Julie Cooper, Mark Townsend and Paul Campbell which was distributed around Burnley Wood, the contents relate to the redevelopment issues around the two community centres there. I have evidence the said content in this leaflet was incorrect and basically lies.”

Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle also accused the council of failing to advertise the appropriation of the land so residents could be consulted.

Mr Rumbelow told councillors: “There was a very serious allegation made against myself and against my staff. I reject the allegation in its entirety, against me personally and against my staff.”

Coun. Cooper also hit back at Coun. Sumner’s claims saying: “They smack of absolute desperation. It’s one set of lies after another. It’s been going on a long time. The facts of the matter are that, in 2007, the Lib-Dem council, headed by Gordon Birtwistle, started the ball rolling on this and it has moved through various stages.

“In 2010 the full council considered this as a matter of public record, through the demolition of Glebe Street.”

Other councillors voiced their opposition to the way the allegations were presented by Coun. Sumner.

Conservative Coun. Cosima Towneley said: “I have never been so ashamed in my life. I never thought I would sit here listening to grown-ups shouting across the room. An allegation has been made, it must be easy to find the timeline of this.”

Lib-Dem Coun. Margaret Brindle called for a written explanation in response to the claims to be provided.

The proposed demolition of Glebe Street Community Centre is to go before the Development Control Committee next month and residents have vowed to fight the plans.