Business as usual, Melton tells the BBC, and lessons learned after he survives Fenland leadership battle

Alan Melton

Alan Melton - Credit: Archant

Council leader Alan Melton has admitted mistakes have been made over the past year but insists it is now business as well.

Speaking for the first time since surviving a leadership battle last Thursday, the Fenland Council leader told the BBC that the last 12 months “had been a very, very difficult time”.

In what was described by one Tory colleague as a “bruising encounter” Cllr Melton defended his leadership during a stormy meeting of the ruling Conservative group.

Another councillor spoke of the meeting – at which a vote of confidence was taken- as being “not quite a blood bath but nearly”.

Despite a heated debate – in which his former Cabinet colleague John Clark claimed to have spent £500 on legal advice prior to circulating a critical email- a secret ballot retained Cllr Melton in post.

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In a Radio Cambridgeshire interview today he said: “There haves been some mistakes made over the last year or so. But the council still continues to function.”

Quizzed about ‘Supermarketgate’ and the battle between Tesco and Sainsbury in Whittlesey, he said “yes, there were some mistakes made there, and I think we’ve learned from those. I certainly hope we have now. That’s not gone away completely, because obviously there’s still some decisions to be made, and then of course they’ve got to get it built.”

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But he said the council had “moved on from there and hopefully the supermarket will be built within the next three months.”

He said in any party there were those who “don’t like you. I was a fervent fan of Margaret Thatcher, but not everybody liked her. We live in a democracy and our party is a democracy and if people wish to challenge me and my methods on a regular basis, they are perfectly entitled to do so.”

Cllr Melton insisted he would remain as leader for at least the next 18 months and “again, it’s up to people to judge me and judge me on my record. The next official leadership elections will be post the district elections in 2015. I may or may not be a candidate, but it will be up to members at that time to cast their votes in the way that they feel fit. We do live in a democracy you know?”

He said the leadership vote had made him aware of some members not being happy and he accepted some of their criticism and “any sensible person would take those points on board.

“I recognise that some members are unhappy. And I recognise that I’ve made mistakes. It was a good debate. It lasted a full two hours. The vote was taken, and now we move on.”

He said that on occasions he may have “overstepped the mark. But I’ve learned from that. Members have learned from that.”

He said the council’s priority was to focus on the next budget round “where we’re facing further cuts, another 15 per cent on top of the 30 per cent that we’ve already endured.”

Cllr Melton will be a guest speaker at Friday’s annual business awards at the Braza Club, March, co promoted by Archant newspapers – publishers of the Cambs Times and Wisbech Standard- and Fenland Council.

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