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latest update 12 March 2010

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Mayor: 'Take it back or I'll sue' threat to Wirral Liberal Democrat leader

Wirral Globe - by Justin Dunn »

THE Mayor of Wirral is demanding local Lib Dem leader Simon Holbrook retracts a claim he is bringing the office into disrepute.

The Mayor, Cllr Andrew Hodson, says he will issue legal proceedings within 24 hours unless his warning is heeded.

Cllr Hodson told the Globe today he intends to sue Cllr Holbrook personally for defamation of character, and also report him to the Standards Board, a local authority watchdog.

The row comes on the back of the council's dramatic decision to scrap the highly controversial plan to close eleven of Wirral's 24 libraries, announced last Wednesday evening.

The plan had been backed by the ruling Lib-Lab administration right up until that moment. Cllr Holbrook is deputy leader of the council.

Tories believe the U-turn came after council leader Steve Foulkes, leader of the Labour group, and his deputy Cllr Holbrook, were allowed sight of the still unpublished findings of a Government-led inquiry into the proposed library closures.

They are demanding the report - which senior councillors and officers have had for a month for "fact checking" - be published unedited immediately.

The Globe has learned the draft report made for "painful" reading for the administration.

The Tories then gathered enough signatures to ask the Mayor - himself a Conservative, although the office is non-political - to call an extraordinary meeting of the full council to discuss the U-turn.

That meeting, which will be open to the public, will be held at Wallasey Town Hall this coming Monday evening, October 12.

But last night, the Mayor's decision to grant the meeting on that date was called into question by Cllr Holbrook.

In a statement, his office said: "Liberal Democrat leader and deputy leader of the council, Cllr Simon Holbrook, has accused the Conservative Mayor of Wirral, elected in a nonpartisan manner, of bringing his office into disrepute.

"Cllr Holbrook has received advice from the council’s Director of Law, Human Resources and Asset Management that the date for the extraordinary meeting of the council scheduled for Monday, October 12, can be set at the Mayor’s discretion."

Cllr Holbrook said in the statement: "The Mayor responded to a request from 18 of his own Conservative party colleagues for an extraordinary meeting of the council without consulting either of the other political groups.

"By not consulting with other political parties, the Mayor has used his civic role for party political benefit.

"There is a long standing tradition in Wirral of the mayor acting in a non political manner.

"This is a good tradition and one we lose at our peril."

The statement added: "Cllr Holbrook made the request to reschedule because October 12 clashes with a long-standing business commitment for his employer.

"The date of Thursday, October 15 (currently the next scheduled cabinet meeting, meaning all cabinet members would be available) has been offered by the council leadership as an alternative."

Today Cllr Hodson told the Globe he had spoken to Cllr Holbrook demanding he retract his remarks.

"I've told him I expect the retraction within 24 hours or I'll begin defamation proceedings against him, and also report him to the Standards Board," he said.

"The fact is I have done nothing wrong. The correct number of signatures was gathered to ask me to call an extraordinary meeting, which I've done.

"I also spoke with the director of law who told me I had to give three working days' notice. In fact I gave five with two weekends.

"When I spoke to Cllr Holbrook this morning I made it clear that there are 65 councillors to consider.

"He said I should have moved the meeting, but if you start doing that [for one person] you'll never have the meeting at all.

"Cllr Holbrook told me he couldn't discuss the matter any further at that moment, so I'm awaiting to hear his retraction by tomorrow morning, or the legal action will commence."

Cllr Holbrook was unavailable for comment.


© copyright Wirral Globe. Reproduced under fair use for the dual purposes of comment and news reporting

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