West Lindsey District Council: Leadership “musical chairs”

Council leaders at West Lindsey District Council have been accused of playing musical chairs, as they voted in a new deputy leader — the third since November last year.

Conservative Councillor Anne Welburn was elected to the role on Monday following the resignation of former party member Paul Howitt-Cowan.

Councillor Howitt-Cowan himself only took over the position from now leader Councillor Owen Bierley in November after former leader Councillor Giles McNeill stepped down due to fraud allegations for which he was arrested but later bailed pending further investigation.

Councillor Howitt-Cowan, however, was suspended from, and later left, the ruling party after it emerged he had urged residents to spy on a local house builder and accused them of plans to illegally demolish a former blacksmiths forge in Hemswell.

Prior to Councillor Welburn’s election on Monday night, opposition councillor Trevor Young said: “Elected on a promise of stability, credibility and expertise — that’s what you all stated.

“But months on and yet again, we’re voting on these key positions on the council. It has become a game no more than musical chairs.

“I would say to any of the Tory group, hang on in there because eventually your turn will come around.”

He said the “swapping and changing” impacted negatively on the view of the council.

“It’s farcical, it’s becoming an embarrassment to the authority,” he said.

“We’ve had meetings cancelled, we’ve had people not attending meetings, and these are policy committees where we’re planning work and debating things.”

The leadership did not respond to the comments on the night, however, in a statement following the meeting, Councillor Bierley said: “I very much welcome Councillor Anne Welburn’s election as Deputy Leader of the council.

“Her new role is a pivotal and vital one and I look forward to working closely with her as we collectively seek to deliver our ambition and vision for the future for the whole of West Lindsey.”

Councillor Welburn has served as a local councillor for the district for almost 13 years, starting in May 2008 and is the ward member for the Cherry Willingham Ward.

She said: “It is both an honour and a privilege for me to accept the role, and I will work tirelessly to justify the faith placed in me.

“I am passionate about inclusivity in politics, effective debate is essential to achieving what communities want at a local level and I hope we can spend more time focusing on the needs of residents rather than petty politics.

“Together we are stronger and can achieve far more with your support.”