Fenland set for leadership challenge as vote of confidence looms large on the horizon

Cllr Alan Melton.

Cllr Alan Melton. - Credit: Archant

Tory controlled Fenland Council was gripped by the prospect of a leadership challenge last night.

The move to force a vote of confidence in Alan Melton came after his portfolio holder for finance John Clark resigned his Cabinet post a week ago.

The 33 strong Tory group (one member is currently suspended) needs 11 signatures to force a special meeting at which the leadership can be challenged. Last night supporters of the move against Mr Melton believed they had sufficient numbers.

However Mr Melton hit back arguing that “if there is to be an agenda item at a group meeting I would very much welcome the opportunity to answer some of the damaging accusations.

“These were made in the widely leaked email sent by Mr Clark whom I believed was a friend as well as a colleague.”

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Peter Tunley, the March councillor pushing for the debate, would only respond “no comment” when questioned about the leadership letter.

He said: “You know me, I will be full and frank at the appropriate time”.

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Dave Connor, a Fenland councillor for Doddington, confirmed he had signed the letter but admitted he was having second thoughts about trying to unseat Mr Melton.

He said he had been “particularly impressed” by the leader’s robust speech to councillors on Thursday which argued, successfully, the case for Fenland’s contribution of £800,000 towards the A14 upgrade.

However Mr Connor said if there was to be a leadership battle then he would throw his own hat into the ring.

Mr Clark quit after claiming to be “frustrated with the top tier” leadership at Fenland Hall.

He was concerned with the image of the council and how they looked publicly and said “I can no longer go along with it”. In his email he criticised for taking a job in the private sector as well as the allowances paid to him as council leader.

Jan French, who was unceremoniously dropped from Mr Melton’s Cabinet last year, said she had advised him to take the initiative and call a meeting himself to “lance this boil”.

She said: “Alan needs to stop sitting on the fence – I’ve told him to just do it and call a meeting for the end of next week”.

Despite being removed from Cabinet she has since returned as vice chairman of the overview and scrutiny committee and is likely to offer her support to Mr Melton.

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