Conservatives locally facing ‘oblivion’ warns councillor who wants to see local council leader removed

FDC leader Alan Melton

FDC leader Alan Melton - Credit: Archant

Alan Melton is facing a make or break week with one colleague stating the party locally is facing “oblivion” and others openly plotting to oust him as leader of Fenland District Council.

Alan Melton is facing a make or break week with one colleague stating the party locally is facing “oblivion” and others openly plotting to oust him as leader of Fenland District Council.

Anger within the majority controlled Tory council flared earlier this month following the departure of John Clark as portfolio holder for finance who questioned Mr Melton’s propriety over his friendship with a builder.

Despite a scrutiny committee’s emphatic insistence that Mr Melton had no case to answer and had been ‘hands off’ during the council’s award of a building contract to someone he knew, some have seized the opportunity to try and oust him.

Among those orchestrating the campaign is Fred Yeulett, a veteran March councillor and Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet member who four years ago was forced to quit as deputy leader following a vote of no confidence over a leaked email.


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His former leader Geoff Harper retired soon after, with Mr Melton reclaiming the role he had held some years earlier.

A flurry of emails, leaked to the EDP, reflect the determination of a minority keen to remove Mr Melton.

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Mr Yeulett told colleagues in one email that “the leader has suddenly become the story to the detriment of the (Tory) group”.

He said an extraordinary meeting of Conservative councillors called by Mr Melton and to analysis the rest of the accusations levelled by Mr Clark, should involve a vote of confidence.

“The meeting on October 3 should debate the suitability of the leader to take the group forward into the elections in 2015, with a vote to be taken to reflect the group’s decision,” said Mr Yeulett.

Dave Connor, a councillor for just two years, told colleagues “I totally agree with Fred Yeulett. This group is facing oblivion and the meeting on October 3 should debate the suitability of the leader.”

He said there has been “murmurings of discontentment for nearly a year” and he feels Mr Melton “has lost his way in leading this council forward”.

Both he and Mr Yeulett are pressing the Tory chief whip Mike Cornwell to allow proxy voting at this week’s meeting as some, including Mr Clark and others, have prior engagements.

“Of course proxy votes should be allowed on such an important issue,” Mr Connor told the chief whip.

Meanwhile Mr Cornwell has circulated the 33 Conservative members of the 40 strong council who are eligible to attend (March councillor Kit Owen remains suspended) to set out the agenda for this week’s meeting.

He says that, apart from apologies, the item for discussion will be “a statement by the leader and discussion on the way forward for the group.”

He said was taking advice on proxy votes but in the event of it being allowed asked absent councillors to appoint their proxy “if such is to be available so that an appointee can represent your views.”

He added: “Finally, I am sure that group will be very disappointed if the contents of this communication appear outside the group.”

Supporters of both camps believe they have “the numbers” to force a vote of confidence but it seemed unlikely last night that there was sufficient support to force Mr Melton out of office.

His supporters’ estimate opponents are into double figures but cannot muster the majority needed to force him out.

Meanwhile Mr Melton has told close colleagues he will “come out fighting” on Thursday and has taken advice both from Central Office and from his solicitor over the email circulated by Mr Clark which he believes is defamatory.

Mr Melton is expected to fight to retain his position, citing his experience, the time he puts into Fenland business and his success over 32 years in local government.

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