CALLS are being made for the leader of Bassetlaw Council to resign following a “heated pantomime of a meeting” which left the Tories with no overall control.
Councillors met to discuss the fate of Tory colleague Coun Bill Graham who has not attended a meeting since 17th June this year on the grounds of ill health.
His subsequent disqualification now means that out of the 47 seats, the Tories now only hold 23, Labour hold 21 and the Independents with three.
Leader of the Labour opposition Coun Graham Oxby said the result of the meeting left leader Coun Mike Quigley with no other option but to step down.
“He should do the honourable thing and resign immediately. The Tories should also call a full council meeting and resolve this situation,” he said.
Coun Oxby added any decision needed to be made quickly, sensibly and in the public interest.
“The Tories are going to limp on until the elections in May next year and do as much horse trading as they can to get as much support as possible.”
“But they have to be extremely careful about what they do – this situation is not good for the public, particularly with a year of cuts coming up.”
There were only 20 Tory councillors at Monday’s meeting which saw them lose the vote for the recommendation to extend Coun Graham’s absence.
The Tory councillor has been absent from Bassetlaw Council meetings for over six months which means he automatically qualifies for disqualification.
The Tories pleaded to overrule this but with one Independent councillor Coun Hugh Burton abstaining and fellow Independent Coun Hazel Brand siding with Labour, they lost the vote.
Many councillors have described the stormy meeting as “poor” and a shambles”.
“Labour councillor Coun Alan Rhodes said it was the “best panto of the season”.
“The Tories tried desperately to keep Coun Graham on and played every trick in the book to avoid a vote or to make it so that he has not exceeded his six-month absence,” he said.
“It was a shambles of a case and one that clearly failed to convince the majority of members.”
But Coun Mike Quigley said he had written to the council in October asking for a leave of extension on Coun Graham’s behalf as he was still dealing with constituents despite undergoing extensive chemotherapy.
He said the council’s solicitor had advised holding the meeting three days after the six-month deadline was “reasonable” and blasted Labour for telling lies.
“I will certainly not be resigning as we still are the largest party and have a mandate from the electorate until May 2011,” he said.
“The performance of the Labour group is despicable bearing in mind that any employer – and that includes the council – has a duty of care to its employees and elected members.”
“That duty of care has been ignored and Coun Oxby and his colleagues, including Mr Mann who has been driving this, are the ones who should hold their heads in shame and resign.”
The loss of overall Tory control puts the three Independent councillors in a strong position as they could side with either party to form a majority.
But Coun Burton said any future course of action was not yet decided.
“I still have to discuss with the other two Independent councilllors as to what will happen,” he said.
“But in my view it’s up to the other two major parties to sort out their position, and for the time being we will continue to stand as Independents.”
The Guardian approached Coun Graham but he was not available for comment.
A vacancy has been advertised for his position.