Political spat sours set piece Harborough District Council meeting

Cllr Lesley Bowles
Cllr Lesley Bowles

A new chairman of Harborough District Council was elected at the formal Annual Council Meeting this week.

Cllr Lesley Bowles, a former Conservative Party political agent, took up the chain of office from last year’s chairman Cllr Grahame Spendlove-Mason.

Cllr Bowles, who represents Bosworth Ward said she would be raising money for dementia charities during her year in office.

“My aunt is actually suffering from dementia” she said. “And the carers who look after the dementia sufferer, suffer too.”

The new vice-chairman of the district council is Cllr Derek Evans.

Cllr Paul Dann was elected as chairman of the ‘watchdog’ Scrutiny Committee.

But the atmosphere at what is usually a formal event was soured by a political spat which led to one angry councillor walking out.

Minority opposition group the Liberal Democrats put up alternative candidates for both the vice-chairman and Scrutiny Committee posts.

Lib Dem group leader Cllr Phil Knowles said the party had been invited last year by the Conservatives to submit a vice-chairman candidate, pointing out there had been no Liberal Democrat chairman of the council for nine years.

The Lib Dems also put up an alternative Scrutiny Committee chairman. Cllr Knowles said it made sense to follow the Leicestershire County Council example of this watchdog committee being led by an opposition councillor.

Both alterative candidates were voted down by the majority Conservative group.

Conservative group leader Cllr Neil Bannister commented that it was nice to see the opposition group getting involved at last.

Lib Dem Cllr Roger Dunton, a councillor for 30 years, responded “not only is that unnecessary, it’s a damned insult” and walked out.

Councillors and guests then enjoyed a post-meeting buffet.