WIRRAL Council 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 among the opposition groups over the way Labour’s leadership has dealt with a damning report by Anna Klonowski into allegations raised by social services whistleblower Martin Morton.
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.”
The meeting of the full council on Monday night saw the ongoing row over how the Klonowski report should be dealt with come to a head as Labour leader Steve Foulkes faced what became a combined vote of no confidence tabled by Tories and Lib Dems, and then losing by 36 votes to 30.
The Tories and Liberal Democrat groups said they wanted a three party cabinet and new leader of the council, but Labour have consistently ruled this out.
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 still be “approaching the Labour group” to ask if they would join the new cabinet.
Earlier Cllr Green, who commissioned the Klonowski report when his party took joint control of Wirral Council last year, said: “If we had not had that change of leadership, would we now know the things Anna Klonowski’s report has laid bare – the 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 and Steve Foulkes said to vote him out based on a report which council had not discussed was “against natural justice”.
But 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.”
Following this, Labour put forward their deputy leader Phil Davies to lead the council but the other parties rejected this, leading Labour to claim it had been “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 that the Lib Dems and Tories can be seen as one.
“We will move into responsible opposition. We’re happy with the legacy we have left behind.”