Political row over civic appointment

Cllr Mike Rook
Cllr Mike Rook

The usually sedate task of swearing in a civic vice-chairman for the forthcoming Harborough District Council year was turned into a political row.

Cllr Mike Rook, the former Tory council leader who resigned in 2009, was put forward for the civic role at a full council meeting on Monday, May 12,

But far from being the normal rubber-stamping exercise, the Liberal Democrats fought to block the move.

Cllr Rook’s appointment will likely see him elevated to the role of civic head of the authority in 12 months’ time.

Cllr Phil Knowles, the Lib Dem group spokesman, said: “This was all about timing and at this time we could not support Cllr Rook’s appointment.

“These are exceptional circumstances.

“The public protest on The Square at the fear of the possible Market Hall closure; the public protest at the decision to close public toilets; the Airfield Farm 1,800/1,500 homes and the hundreds of petition signatures registering opposition; the refusal to release the QC’s advice to councillors – all under Cllr Rook’s watch as leader and surely too recent in the memories for both the public and certainly the councillors on this side.’’

They then tabled a counter-proposal to put forward Lib Dem Roger Dunton for the post of vice-chairman.

But this was ignored and the Conservatives voted to appoint Cllr Rook.

Blake Pain, leader of the Tory-run council, said: “This is just another cynical attempt to create headlines and self-promotion by the Lib Dems, as their standing in national opinion polls plummets to all-time lows, by attacking councillors who have had to make very difficult decisions in incredibly challenging economic times.

“It’s also a bit rich coming from them as they had a chance to challenge Cllr Rook’s record on the doorstep in the 2011 local elections but chose not to put any candidate against him and enabled him to romp back unchallenged.

“Their expectation that he will be the civic chairman after the next elections in May 2015 suggests they are already resigned to another four-year spell in opposition, accepting that their petty personal point-scoring holds no water with the majority of voters across the district.”