SOUTH Ribble Council has it’s fifth leader in two years after an extraordinary meeting at the civic centre on Monday night.

Paul Foster was voted in as Labour took control in a minority-run authority thanks to support from the Liberal Democrats.

Former Conservative leader Mary Green was ousted as leader of the Tory group in South Ribble last weekend and claims she was the victim of a “character assassination” by her political opponents – while also receiving “no support” from some on her own side.

But Coun Green’s decision to step down caused chaos at the meeting which had been called to consider a motion of no confidence in her leadership.   

With that issue decided by default, members were asked to put forward nominations for her replacement.

Deputy leader of the authority, Caroline Moon, told the meeting that Conservative party rules meant the group could not nominate a new council leader until it had elected a leader of the party – and she then sought to adjourn the meeting until November.

But the absence of nine Conservative councillors meant the group was minus its usual working majority – and Coun Moon’s request was rejected.

Liberal Democrat leader David Howarth, who had called the meeting, was left unimpressed.   “We are here to elect a leader of this council…and this council is not run by the standing orders of the Conservative group,” he said.

After Coun Foster was himself nominated to take over the authority, the Conservatives did put forward their own nomination – Coun Moon.

Cabinet member Warren Bennett defended the move, telling the meeting that party rules meant only the deputy leader could be nominated. And he denied that there had been a boycott.

“There are lots of insinuations about why people aren’t here tonight, but there are lots of reasons why people don’t attend an emergency meeting – it’s not in everybody’s diary, it’s just a fact,” Coun Bennett said.

Coun Foster was approved as leader by 20 votes to 19, with one abstention -meaning Coun Moon’s nomination was not formally considered. He said:  “The meeting was bizarre and I am genuinely disappointed as we were going to look to the elections in May to try to take over. But I am going to do my duty.

“We have a cabinet meeting on Wednesday night and need to sort things out.

“I am astonished that the council have had so many leaders but we will control the authority and hopefully bring some order.

“We are taking control of the council for the good and benefit of our community.

They have got to sort out their internal disputes as it stands now neither of the factions can hold the majority so what I would say to them is we need to work together for the benefit of our community.

Cllr Moon said: “This was pure political opportunism by Labour who were able to seize control due to an extraordinary set of circumstances that were out of our control. A number of our councillors had prior engagements in place before this unplanned council meeting was put in the diary at short notice. As such we did not have a majority on the night.”

“Under Conservative control resident satisfaction has remained high at South Ribble for many years and credit must go to the staff who deliver excellent services here.

“With this move Labour have achieved nothing other than to create uncertainty for the council in the weeks ahead.