Former council leader suspended from Conservative group

Council leader Blake Pain (left) and Cllr Mike Rook (right)
Council leader Blake Pain (left) and Cllr Mike Rook (right)

The former leader of Harborough District Council has been suspended from the Conservative group on the authority.

It comes after Cllr Mike Rook, who stepped down as leader last month, sent a letter to the Mail criticising his successor Blake Pain for his conduct during a row last year over the development of a masterplan planning document which could see up to 1,800 homes built on land north west of Harborough.

The issue led Cllr Rook to sack Cllr Pain as his deputy leader back in November.

In a letter to the Mail this week, Cllr Rook said he sacked Cllr Pain not over his opposition to the homes, but because Cllr Pain’s actions were ‘undermining the administration from the inside’.

The letter, which will be published in full in tomorrow’s (Thursday’s) Mail, states: “Cllr Pain was unable to accept “corporate responsibility” for the decision taken, and this became manifest in his attitude that would not accept officer advice, and, as I began to perceive it, to eat away at the confidence of the officer core, the daily management of the council by officers, and to cause confusion about what line they should follow.

“I offered Cllr Pain at least two opportunities to resign in order to follow his conscience outside the executive where he would be entirely free to make his statements.

“He would not do so, refusing point blank to resign from the executive board with whose opinion he could, by then, no longer actually agree.

I still feel his failure to resign was a major mistake on his part; a lack of understanding of the process of decision making and of corporate responsibility, but above all it was destroying the cohesion of the member/officer working relationship.”

Details of the letter were sent by the Mail to Cllr Pain on Monday, in order to give him right-of-reply to the allegations.

And in a statement sent to the Mail last (Tuesday) night, Cllr Pain said: “Earlier today I informed Cllr Rook that following consultation with the group whip, Cllr [Bill] Liquorish, I was suspending him from the Harborough District Council Conservative Group.

“This suspension is a neutral act and has been made so that the party whips can carry out an investigation into the actions of Cllr Rook and allegations concerning serious breaches of the Conservative group rules and protocols.

“Once this committee has investigated, a report and its recommendations will be considered by members at a future Conservative group meeting.

“No further comment will be issued by me about this until after the investigation has been concluded and the report considered by the Conservative Group members.”