Row as Tories accuse Lib Dems of letting Labour Party into power

Janice Hanson
Janice Hanson

A Conservative councillor from Lancaster has called on the county council to scrap its current cabinet system.

Coun Alycia James, who represents Lancaster Rural North, claims that the Liberal Democrats allowed the Labour Party into power in Lancashire “through the back door”, after they supported a proposal for a minority Labour run administration last week.

Under the agreement, the Liberal Democrats supported a proposal for Jennifer Mein, leader of the Labour Group, to become leader of Lancashire County Council.

The proposal was passed at last Thursday’s Annual Meeting of Full Council and County Coun Mein was elected as leader of the county council.

She formed a minority administration, with a cabinet made up of Labour councillors, including county coun Janice Hanson, who represents Morecambe West.

The cabinet members’ portfolio areas, or responsibilities, have yet to be allocated.

County Coun Mein said: “We are delighted that we will now have the chance to deliver on our pledge for jobs, especially opportunities for young people, and to help protect the most vulnerable in society.”

But coun James said: “The Lib Dems have allowed Labour into power through the back door.

“Our constitution is made for having a single group with a majority to run the authority.

“Four years ago we were given a clear mandate to run the council by the electorate but with no party in overall control this time round, voters have sent out a clear message that they do not wish one party to be in sole charge.”

She added that the “best solution” would be for the county to revert back to the traditional committee system where all groups get to have a say in the running of Lancashire County Council.”

County Coun Bill Winlow, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “I am very pleased with this agreement.

“It is very good for the people of Lancashire and will provide a green, fair and strong economy for our county.

“We are looking to protect front-line services at a time of major budget reductions.

“We will work hard to reduce duplication in service provision and to share services with other districts and counties.”

Coun Mein said that reductions in central grant funding would make her task more difficult, but that she would ensure that she put the people of Lancashire at the heart of her plans for the future.

A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said that although a request was made to establish two additional committees - an executive committee and a budget committee - neither would be able to replace the cabinet.

Meanwhile MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale David Morris wrote to coun Mein to ask her to personally take responsibility to ensure the M6 Heysham Link Road remains Lancashire County Council’s top road priority project and that it is delivered.

The county council held its elections on 2 May 2013 at which point no party had gained the 43 seats necessary to take control of the council.

The full results were: Labour 39, Conservatives 35, Liberal Democrats 6, Independent 3 and Green Party 1.