WIRRAL Council today has a new leader after the Labour group was kicked out during a stormy meeting at Wallasey town hall.
Tories and Lib Dems joined together to outvote the largest party and appoint Conservative group leader Jeff Green at the helm of the authority.
It followed dissatisfaction of the opposition groups over the way Labour’s leadership dealt with a damning report into allegations raised by whistleblower Martin Morton from Wirral social services.
Mr Morton’s allegations of financial abuse of vulnerable people in council care led to an investigation by an outside consultant, Anna Klonowski, whose report included further serious concerns and failings in the authority.
During the meeting senior Lib Dem Stuart Kelly said the Klonowski report indicated “corporate failure of a scale previously thought unimaginable by elected members” but the council was still “no nearer the truth of who is to blame” and added: “If this were this council’s Watergate we are nowhere near Nixon yet.”
Last night’s meeting saw the row over how the Klonowski report should be dealt with come to a head as Labour leader Steve Foulkes faced votes of no confidence tabled by Tories and Lib Dems.
The Tories and Liberal Democrat groups said they wanted a three party cabinet and a new leader of the council.
After he won the vote new leader Jeff Green said he would delay announcement of the new full cabinet to allow Labour “a period of reflection”, but said he would be approaching the Labour group to ask if they would join. Cllr Green also pledged the authority would find a job for Mr Morton by the time he meets chief officers.
Earlier Cllr Green, who commissioned the Klonowski report when his party was took control of Wirral Council last year with the Lib Dems, said: “If we had not had that change of leadership would we now know the things Anna Klonowski’s report has laid bare – that answer is no.
“That is the reason Steve Foulkes must go.”
Labour had earlier been angry that the Tories and Lib Dems “sabotaged” their plans for a debate on the Klonowski report.
Steve Foulkes said to vote him out based on a report which the council had not debated was “against natural justice”.
Lib Dem leader Tom Harney said: “Steve Foulkes has become so much a part of the council's problems and his behaviour has contributed so much to the serious danger of collapse that Wirral Council now finds itself in, that there was no choice.”
Labour attempted to put forward their deputy leader Phil Davies as leader of the council but the other parties rejected this leading the Labour group to claim it was “a political fix”.
Following the meeting Cllr Foulkes said it had been difficult since they became a minority administration with 30 of the council’s 66 seats.
He said: “There is a difference between holding us to account and holding us to ransom.“I’m confident now the Lib Dems and Tories can be seen as one.
“We’re happy with the legacy we have left behind.”
Earlier his group had put forward a surprise budget during the final meeting of their cabinet.
Later some Labour councillors had taunted the other groups that they would win back control of the council during the elections in May.