Councillor says he believes new leader could emerge from Tory crisis meeting at Fenland Hall

By John Elworthy A SENIOR Tory on Fenland District Council said today he expects a new leader could emerge from tomorrow s crisis meeting at Fenland Hall of all 39 Tory councillors. The councillor said he believes Councillor Geoff Harper could even resig

By John Elworthy

A SENIOR Tory on Fenland District Council said today he expects a new leader could emerge from tomorrow's crisis meeting at Fenland Hall of all 39 Tory councillors.

The councillor said he believes Councillor Geoff Harper could even resign in advance of the meeting, leaving councillors to decide upon a new leader in the wake of mounting discontent.

"It wouldn't surprise me at all if Geoff circumvented the proceedings and resigned," he told me.


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"In the event the best thing to do is sometimes to jump before you are pushed."

The councillor said he felt the issues at stake spread wider than the row over whether deputy leader Fred Yeulett should have leaked a confidential email from Councillor Alan Melton to the chief executive.

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That row moved, quickly, to the council's standards committee yesterday when an assessment sub committee agreed it should be referred to the Standards Board of England.

However the argument among councillors is not over the contents of the email (which called for a fresh initiative over leisure facilities in Chatteris) but the fact that the deputy leader took what was a strictly confidential email circulating among a handful of Tories and handed a copy to chief executive Tim Pilsbury.

"The fact this email was leaked will reflect very badly on Fred Yeulett and also on Geoff. Both in my opinion will struggle to survive," said the councillor.

However the councillor believes the real battle at Fenland goes much wider and involves the relationship between members and officers.

"A lot of members feel Mr Pilsbury in particular is more or less running the council and is all powerful and cannot be touched," he told me. "In many respects it should be the councillors setting the agenda, and not the other way round. The general feeling among the five or six councillors I have spoken to is that Geoff is not strong enough to stand up to the chief executive.

"Members are looking, arguably, for someone with the strength of character to stand up to him.

"Back bench members I've spoken to say they are not given enough information and often only find out things through the press. The council needs to be much more transparent with its rank and file members".

He added that complaints he had made to Cllr Harper on three occasions had not been sorted "and as a result you tend to lose faith in the leader".

Cllr Harper could not be contacted for comment.

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