EAST Staffordshire Borough Council came under a new leader this week, as Richard Grosvenor was ousted by colleagues.
Members of the authority voted to replace the Tory councillor with Labour’s Julian Mott after a lengthy debate at Monday’s full council meeting.
Labour members were supported in their motion by the four so-called Tory rebels, who defected from the party last spring to become independent, prompting cries from the Tory members that the move was ‘a kick in the teeth for democracy’.
Beginning the debate, Councillor Dennis Fletcher said: “If you want a simple reason why we are doing this, it’s because we can. This is politics. The Tories can no longer command the majority of the votes in this chamber; we can, we have, we do, and we will.
“If we are going to be responsible for making the decisions, we are going to be responsible for running the council.”
It was claimed the rebels – Councillors Malcolm Barrett, Robert Hardwick, Nathan Birnie and Peter Ball – had been forced out of the Conservative group because of Councillor Grosvenor’s behaviour, which another councillor described as ‘bullying’ and ‘dictatorial’.
However, Tory members said the quartet had made the move solely for their own gain.
Referring to them as ‘traitors’, Councillor Bernard Peters said: “We are looking at four Conservative renegades who have dismissed out of hand the good people who voted for them for no other reason than their own selfish gain. It’s distasteful, loathsome behaviour.”
It was suggested that cabinet positions could be in line for some of the independent councillors, though several councillors – including Councillor Grosvenor – warned Labour members to ‘watch their backs’. None of the four spoke at the meeting.
The former leader said: “This is a motion motivated by political vengeance and vindictiveness, which does not suit the majority of the residents. This is sticking two fingers up to the residents.”
The motion was carried after a lengthy debate, after which Councillor Mott said he hoped he would be able to do a good job.