Lancashire county councillor explains why he has not resigned now he is an MP for Greater Manchester
A Lancashire county councillor who was elected as an MP for a constituency in Greater Manchester last year says that he has not yet resigned from his local authority role because a block on by-elections would have left his council area without representation for over a year.
Christian Wakeford has held the Pendle Hill division on the authority since 2013, but the Conservative politician snatched the Bury South parliamentary seat from Labour at last December’s general election.
At a meeting of the full council back in February, County Cllr Wakeford told members that he would be “hanging up his coat” now that he had secured a spot on the green benches at Westminster.
However, almost four months later, his council seat has yet to be vacated. Mr. Wakeford’s office told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that the change of plan was in response to the cancellation of all local elections – including by-elections, such as the one which his resignation would have triggered – until May 2021, as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
But Mark Perks – formerly a fellow Tory who now sits as an independent at County Hall, representing Clayton with Whittle – said he was “disappointed” when he discovered after making an enquiry that his erstwhile party colleague was still sitting on the authority.
“He’s not even an MP for part of Lancashire and it just grates with me that somebody can be elected to Parliament and get all their expenses, but then stay on at a local authority and claim expenses for that, too – it’s not doing a service to the residents in his area, nor the council taxpayers of Lancashire.
“And it’s got nothing to do with by-elections, because there is a member of Chorley Council who has just stepped down and nobody here is demanding a by-election, because there will be other councillors who can [step in],” County Cllr Perks added.
Prior to the lockdown, County Cllr Wakeford was also serving as chair of the authority’s education scrutiny committee, but his office has told the LDRS that he will be resigning from that role, which attracts a special responsibility allowance of £7,620 per year in addition to the basic annual allowance of £10,675 payable to all county councillors.
A spokesperson for Mr. Wakeford said: “It is still Christian’s absolute intention to stand down from his position on Lancashire County Council to devote all his time to his new role as Member of Parliament for Bury South. As soon as it becomes possible to hold a by-election in his Pendle Hill division, Christian will be submitting his resignation.
“Had Christian still submitted his resignation [after the postponement of local elections], the residents of the Pendle Hill division would have been without representation for over a year.”
In a sometimes emotional farewell speech at County Hall in February, County Cllr Wakeford thanked colleagues for supporting him during good and bad times in his life during his seven years on the authority.
“It has been a truly rewarding experience and one that I have been immensely proud of undertaking.
“As I did say in my maiden speech down in Parliament, it is incredibly nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice – and sometimes I do think that we actually forget that,” he said at the time.
Conservative county council leader Geoff Driver said of the resignation row: “County Cllr Perks would be better employed looking after the interests of the residents in his own division than trying to score cheap political points. The government has made it clear that there should be no by-elections in the present situation.”