An attempted coup which would have seen Boston Borough Council’s leadership change for a fourth time in two years, saw accusations of bullying, hate crimes, and wheeling and dealing fly across the virtual chamber on Monday.
The authority’s Conservative leader Councillor Paul Skinner held on by just one vote during the extraordinary meeting of the council, when opposition members attempted to remove him from power and replace him.
Independent Councillor Peter Bedford proposed the vote of no confidence in the leadership of the authority and called for fellow indy Councillor Stephen Woodliffe to take his place. If successful Councillor Woodliffe would have been the leader.
The argument centred mainly around the new strategic alliance with East Lindsey District Council and a perceived lack of consultation with opposition members.
Councillor Woodliffe said many “were unaware of the plans that were set in motion”.
“Plans that would strip Boston Borough Council of its independence, its officers, and any measure of trust with the residents of the borough.”
As the meeting went on, however, councillors revealed that the run-up to the event had turned nasty.
Independent Councillor Alison Austin said there had been “vitriolic” emails forwarded to all. She supported the motion but said the changing leadership “must stop”.
“We can’t keep playing ping pong with the leaders anymore,” she said.
Conservative Councillor Deborah Evans said the “cruel words” she had seen made her “feel like I’m back in school and there’s bullying going on”.
“I’m absolutely disgusted with what’s been going on,” she said.
Councillor Skinner’s wife and fellow Conservative councillor Judith Skinner said: “I’m very distressed at some of the hateful emails he has received. They are bordering on hate crimes.”
There were also accusations of councillors trying to “dig up dirt” on their fellow members by calling outside parties and deals of positions on the cabinet being offered for a vote of support.
Bostonian Independent Councillor Anne Dorrian accused councillor Skinner of stabbing his predecessor Councillor Aaron Spencer in the back and taking a “wrecking ball” to the two sides of the chamber working together.
She said the devolution deal announced earlier this year by Councillor Martin would render the alliance “useless”. “It’s impotent,” she said.
Defending himself, Councillor Skinner said: “Having been elected to the job in February, and Covid in March it’s not been easy.
“We have had to take some decisions for the good of the town. I can honestly say hand on heart that all the staff and all members have had the same information circulated.
“Yes, there were some mistakes with the alliance, but I can honestly say hand on heart I followed officer guidance throughout.”
He told members there had been ample opportunity to get the information they sought and to speak to him about the alliance, including several briefings which they were invited to.
A number of councillors jumped to Councillor Skinner’s defence with Councillor Tom Ashton saying: “Paul cares very deeply about the town, about the borough in the job he does full square as leader.
“Councillor Skinner has been incredibly open handed and shown his willingness to work across the council.
“He’s a good man and I firmly believe he should be given the chance to work beyond this evening.”
The vote was 13 for, 14 against.