November 3, 2020 10.08 am This story is over 13 months old

Suspended West Lindsey leader sparks voting rebellion

The opposition refused to vote

The shadow of the former West Lindsey District Council leader Giles McNeill hung over a vote to officially elect his replacement on Monday night.

Conservative councillors Owen Bierley and Paul Howitt-Cowan were both elected as council leader and deputy leader at a virtual meeting of the authority’s full council.

However, Liberal Democrat councillors abstained from voting because former leader Councillor Giles McNeill was present for the meeting.

Councillor McNeill is suspended from the Conservative Group following fraud allegations for which he has been arrested and released on bail pending further enquiries.

He stepped down as leader and from his communications role under MP Sir Edward Leigh after the start of investigations.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Lesley Rollings said: “We feel the leader of the council is a really important role and carries with it a huge responsibility to maintain public trust.

“We’re a little bit disappointed to see the former leader here, given the investigation that’s currently hanging over his head.

“We would have hoped that the administration would have requested he stayed away as a matter of neutrality.”

Conservative Chairman Councillor Steve England assured members Councillor McNeill was attending “in his role as an independent” and had not been invited by the administration.

Council officer Alan Robinson also confirmed he was summonsed to the meeting but added: “it is my understanding that while suspended from the Conservative group Councillor McNeil remains a member of the administration, otherwise we would be carrying out a political balance review.”

Councillor McNeill voted in favour of both leaders.

Councillor Bierley thanked both his predecessors Councillor McNeill and Jeff Summers “for their dedicated, effective and tireless work on behalf of this authority, and the whole of West Lindsey”.

He accepted the role with “great humility, a firm resolve and a clear vision for the future direction”.

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