Morecambe Tory’s decision to quit ‘won’t solve issue’

County Councillor Tony Jones.
County Councillor Tony Jones.

A Morecambe councillor has criticised a former colleague for quitting Lancashire County Council’s Tory group over concerns about the leadership.

Charlie Edwards said he wished Tony Jones had spoken to him and other Conservatives before deciding to go independent.

County Councillor Charlie Edwards.

County Councillor Charlie Edwards.

Co Coun Jones decided to leave the group amid an ongoing controversy involving county council leader Geoff Driver.

Co Coun Driver has ‘banned’ senior authority staff from attending briefing meetings with him, asking that chief executive Jo Turton and four other senior officers contact him by e-mail instead.

Co Coun Jones, who represents Morecambe North, said: “I have been concerned for some time about the management of the Conservative group on Lancashire County Council. I believe that the advice of the chief executive should be followed.

“I have been a councillor for 36 years, four years on the city council and 32 years on the county council, and I have always taken the advice of officers very seriously.

“I will continue to serve my constituents to the best of my ability and I remain a member of the national Conservative party.”

Coun Edwards, who represents Morecambe South, said: “If Tony Jones isn’t happy with the situation then leaving the group isn’t going to solve the issue.

“Maybe if he’d talked to his fellow Morecambe-based councillors we could have helped him. I’ve not heard from him since I was elected in May.”

In July the new Tory leadership of the county council unveiled plans for a major restructure of the council’s management team to help meet “a cumulative deficit of £398m by the end of 2020/2021”.

This placed an immediate question mark over the future of the chief executive.

The plans looked set to be knocked back after solicitors said the proposed jobs shake-up was unlawful.

But then on Friday a report was published giving the county council cabinet options to restructure senior management at director grade and above.

Cabinet members are due to next meet for talks on August 21.

Co Coun Jones is the second Conservative to leave the group in as many months.

Co Coun Paul Greenall quit in June claiming he had faced unacceptable pressure from fellow Tories when he wanted to table a motion calling for the axeing of some of the allowances councillors can claim.

*Co Coun Driver is also under police investigation after he was arrested in May on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and witness intimidation.

This relates to allegations of financial irregularities over the tendering of a £5m contract with One Connect Ltd, a joint venture between the council and British Telecom.

The council leader and three other men are on police bail until August 23.