Tories accused of 'collapsing' Burnley Council as search for a leader continues

The search for a new leader for Burnley Council is set to be discussed this week in an extraordinary meeting at a critical time for the borough.
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The Burnley Express revealed recently that the previous leader of the council, Burnley and Padiham Independent Party's Charlie Briggs, stepped down citing infighting among the Conservative group which was part of a ruling coalition with no one party having overall control.

The council's Labour group has also accused the Tories, under new leader Coun. Alan Hosker, of "collapsing" the council and "picking fights".

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The situation has left the borough with no elected figure to lead the council at a time when Burnley has been identified as having one of the highest rates of coronavirus in the country.

Burnley Town HallBurnley Town Hall
Burnley Town Hall

For the past 16 months Burnley Council’s ruling Executive Committee has consisted of two Liberal Democrats and two Conservatives, headed by Coun. Briggs from the Burnley and Padiham Independent Party, all working together to lead Burnley through a turbulent time.

However, the resignation of the two Tory members - Couns Cosima Towneley and Ivor Emo, following a disagreement with new Tory leader Coun. Alan Hosker - seemed to set the wheels in motion for Coun. Briggs' resignation.

In his resignation statement, Coun. Briggs said: "It has become evident in the last few weeks that the Conservatives are crippled by infighting and have even removed their own Executive members.

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"The Liberal Democrats have no intention of working with the current leadership of the Conservatives as they have a history with UKIP. This has made running the council in its present form untenable."

Out of the 45 members who represent local people, Labour hold 22 seats, the Lib Dems eight, Conservative seven, BPIP five, the Greens two, as well as one independent. So whilst Labour are numerically the biggest party no single group hold a majority.

With the collapse of the coalition it was reported that the Liberal Democrats have met with the Labour Group to discuss alternative provisions by working together in a new coalition after both parties confirmed they were unwilling to work with Conservative leader Coun. Hosker.

Coun. Hosker said: “Charlie was right when he said there had been petty squabbles. The Conservative Group felt it necessary to change our Executive representatives and that was received badly by Coun. Birtwistle.

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"Unfortunately, there was no talking to him. I don’t know why he feels he cannot work with the Conservatives any longer. We were still willing to continue in our support for Coun. Briggs but it appears that party politics, and Coun. Birtwistle's desire to work with Labour have got in the way.

"The situation is unfortunate but I, along with the other hard working Conservative councillors, will continue to work on behalf of our residents to get results."

The extraordinary council meeting will take place on Wednesday at 6-30pm. If no candidate receives the necessary votes then plans are in place for the council’s chief executive, Mick Cartledge, to take control, continuing with council business until a political solution is found.

In response, Labour leader Coun. Mark Townsend said: "Unfortunately it looks like the Conservative Group cannot move on. Along with their coalition colleagues they have collapsed the council during this unprecedented health and jobs emergency and instead of looking forward are still picking fights with their old partners.

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"As the largest party on the council the Labour Group understands its responsibility to try and bring stability, strong leadership and direction to the council for the good of the residents of the town.

"Having a leaderless council as the Conservatives seem to be suggesting as a way forward at this time would be a dereliction of duty by councillors and just shows the sad state they are now in."