West Lindsey District Council has elected its new leader following the former leader's suspension

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

Conservative councillors Owen Bierley and Paul Howitt-Cohen 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 Coun Giles McNeill was present for the meeting.

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

Coun Owen Bierley has been elected as council leader

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.”

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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