'Bullying and intimidation' blamed as council leader steps down

The leader of Pendle's Conservative group has stood down, saying that the borough's politics had become "toxic".
Coun. Joe CooneyCoun. Joe Cooney
Coun. Joe Cooney

Coun. Joe Cooney announced he intends to stand down as leader of Pendle Conservatives after leading the group for more than six years.

In a strongly worded statement he attacked senior councillors, accusing them of intimidation and bullying.

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Coun. Cooney, who represents the Vivary Bridge ward, said: "The arena of politics in Pendle is toxic, and has gotten worse over the last couple of years. Senior councillors openly intimidate and bully members who dare to speak their minds or suggest an alternative view.

"The personal attacks I've been subjected to are simply unacceptable. Despite repeated complaints to senior officers within the council, no action, no support and no attempt to change the atmosphere within the council has been made.

"This has been a major contributing factor towards my decision to stand down. If we want to increase participation, particularly from more young people and a wider section of our communities, then we need to ensure we can debate issues without people’s appearance, mental state or ethics constantly being called into question."

Coun. Cooney said he would continue to represent his ward as well his positions on Lancashire County Council and Colne Town Council.

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He added: "It’s been a great privilege to lead the Conservative Group for the last six years. In that time, we’ve made real progress, seeing our group number rise to its highest in decades. Alongside that, I had the real honour to serve as council leader for three years from 2012-2015, leading the borough that I love.

"Every group or organisation needs to stay fresh and sharp. For that to happen, there needs to be a change of leader. After six years, and great progress, I think now is the time for that change.

"I'll be staying an active member of the group and continuing my roles within the council, county council and on Colne Town Council, which I enjoy immensely.

"Now is the right time to hand over the reins."