Outgoing Burnley Council leader outlines why he could not share power with the Tories and UKIP

Labour's outgoing Burnley Council leader Mark Townsend has revealed why his group declined the chance to share power on the new-look council but congratulated his successor and said he was leaving the borough in good shape.

Thursday, 30th May 2019, 11:33 am
Updated Thursday, 30th May 2019, 12:33 pm
Coun. Mark Townsend

Coun. Towsend said the Burnley Labour group had declined an invitation to join the new ruling coalition because its values meant it could not work alongside the Tories or UKIP, which he blamed for bringing pain to the town.

Coun. Townsend said: "We leave the borough in good shape with its reputation high with partners, stakeholders and potential investors.

"I am proud that the administration I have led didn't duck the big challenges or refrain from working towards our high ambition.

"We focussed on the big changes needed to transform the borough and didn't shirk from facing up to the opposition from both inside and outside this chamber."

Coun. Townsend said that Labour's values prevented the party from working with the Tories and UKIP.

He added: "We were asked to join a coalition of Lib Dems, Tories, UKIP, Green and Burnley and Padiham Independents. We decided that being true to our values and principles of equality, diversity and fairness could not bring us to do a deal with the Tories and UKIP.

"The Tories who have brought such pain through austerity to our town with much more to come.

"UKIP being a party with a national leader that has been taking advice from far right activist Tommy Robinson. Locally its leader has twice been in breach of the Councillor Code of Conduct for posting racist/obscene material.

"The coalition parties have said that Labour setting up a minority administration was undemocratic for all decision making as they only had 22 seats.

"It is ironic, then, that they have set up an Executive consisting of three parties that sums to a total of 17 seats. They have put two Tories on the Executive, 40% of the power, when they only have four seats out of 45 on the council."

Coun. Townsend highlighted a number of developments in the borough during the Labour leadership including the opening of Vision Park, the expansion of UCLan in the town, funding secured towards Padiham flood defences and heritage project, and Thompson Park restoration.

He added: "All this while having to save £16m. due to Tory austerity. Our budget is now only £15m.

"My face has been photographed with many of these projects but nothing would have been achieved without a fantastic and hardworking team.

"First my deputy leader John Harbour. He has been with me every step of the way. Doing the unsung work that many don't see clearing the way for me. A fantastic support throughout. My Executive members who have all been loyal passionate and hardworking for the people of the borough.

"I am proud to probably have had the most diverse Executives in the history of this council. Something I hope continues into the future.

"We are obviously disappointed but the price being asked to continue in a leadership role by the coalition was too high.

"Our role now is to be a constructive opposition. Support when warranted. Challenge and oppose when needed. We will hold the new administration to account using all the might of our influence being by far the largest party on this council. We owe this to our residents and we now dedicate ourselves to that mission."