Labour man appointed new leader of Burnley Council
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The appointment was made at an extraordinary meeting of Burnley Council, which has been without a leader since the resignation of previous incumbent, Burnley and Padiham Independent Party's Charlie Briggs.
As reported previously in the Express, the council's previous coalition of Burnley and Padiham Independent Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives and the Greens collapsed after Coun. Briggs' resignation, prompted by the removal of two Conservative councillors, Ivor Emo and Cosima Towneley, from the ruling Executive by their own leader Coun. Alan Hosker.
Labour, the largest group on the council, has previously stated they would not work with Coun. Hosker, a former Brexit Party and UKIP member.
Coun. Townsend said: "I’m honoured to have been appointed leader of the council and excited at the prospect of taking the town forward.
"It was important that councillors made a quick decision after weeks of internal turmoil and we now have the platform to provide stability, decisive leadership and clear direction in these challenging and unprecedented times.
"There is a long to-do list but top priority is to support residents through the immediate demands of the health emergency and jobs crisis.
"I have appointed an experienced Executive team who will hit the ground running and I will be reaching out to the other political groupings across the council to try and achieve the broadest consensus possible to take the borough forward for the good of residents.“
The Liberal Democrat Group on Burnley Council supported the nomination of Labour Coun. Mark Townsend as leader of the council and members voted for the proposal.
In a statement on behalf of the Lib Dem Group, Coun. Gordon Birtwistle said: “Our top priority is to ensure that Burnley has clear leadership in very difficult times and we shall work with Coun. Townsend to ensure that our officers are fully supported in their work to bring us through the pandemic and keep our town in good shape for the future.
“We very much regret that the hard-working Executive has been brought down by (Tory leader) Coun. Alan Hosker’s personal ambitions. He has been a wrecking ball, first for the Conservative Group, and then for the recent administration.
"We are not willing for him to have a similar effect on officers and the council itself. We note that his demands for personal power have not been supported by any proposals or ideas for the Council’s policies and how we deal with one of the biggest crises in our town’s history”.
His Lib Dem colleague Coun. Margaret Lishman added: “The council faces some big challenges over the next few months, particularly in relation to important financial decisions and our strategy for recovery after the pandemic.
"We accepted the responsibility for leadership through those difficult decisions and have prepared proposals for the Council. It is deeply disappointing that Cllr Hosker’s actions have prevented us from carrying through these plans."
Coun. Lishman was the deputy leader of the council and the Executive member for Resources and Performance Management. She has just completed work on developing the Economic and Community Recovery Plans for Burnley after COVID, which were due to go to council meetings during the current two week period.
The LibDem Group said in a statement: “We hope that the new administration will recognise the need for continued effective scrutiny and audit of plans and decisions and will recognise that these functions should be led by opposition councillors.
“We will support what needs to be done as well as scrutinising and challenging when necessary and in all our actions, we shall put the needs of the town and its residents first."