Wayne Fitzgerald, the outgoing leader of Peterborough City Council, said today he regrets losing seven Conservative councillors “but to be honest now they have gone, I am glad they have gone. We have got this cancer out of the group”.
In an outspoken ‘hot seat’ interview with Chris Mann on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Cllr Fitzgerald launched a series of outspoken attacks on political opponents.
“I did try and keep everyone on board but for varying reasons, seven of them decided to quit. They betrayed the trust of the people – I did not select them personally, the party did, but I will take responsibility.
“They were toxic in the group, a toxic element; they duped the people selecting them, they never were Conservatives.”
In one part he agreed he had been “outsmarted” by the opposition that has put together a vote of no confidence in his leadership and he told Mann “I don’t accept or agree with it, but I think we will lose the vote”.
Cllr Fitzgerald also tore into former Conservative councillor Mohammed Farooq, now a member of Peterborough First, who was suspended for three weeks pending an internal inquiry, re-instated but then left the Conservative group.
“I was accused of working with other councillors to bring a no-confidence vote in in the leader Wayne Fitzgerald,” Cllr Farooq told CambsNews.
“Well under no circumstances I did that, and they did this investigation, this kangaroo court, and they found no evidence and I’ve been exonerated for that.
“But you know what that is only until the next moment, and I don’t want to live that moment.”
He claimed he had “been in a toxic atmosphere, been victimized, been bullied. It almost killed me”.
But on Radio Cambridgeshire, Cllr Fitzgerald said he could bring 23 Conservative councillors to the studio to “tell you differently”.
‘Misleading the public’ claim
He said Cllr Farooq was “misleading the public” and the Conservative group would “totally deny” his claims; the Tory press officer had put out a strong rebuttal to the claims which Cllr Fitzgerald described as having “no validity, it is fantasy”.
Cllr Fitzgerald said: “Mohammed wasn’t cleared, he was given a reprimand and would have been given a written warning”.
During his 45-minute interview, Cllr Fitzgerald defended his record as leader, having successfully “turned around” inherited council debt when he took over and said the council had made great progress.
He also felt the vote of confidence had been brought about by Labour’s Parliamentary candidate Andrew Pakes who he described as the “puppet master” in bringing about a vote at this time.
Cllr Fitzgerald told the BBC he retained the confidence of his Conservative colleagues and he remained “committed to championing Peterborough”.
He added: “I fear for the future. I have shown strong leadership, some people like that kind of style, some don’t. Strong leadership gets things done and make decisions other didn’t.”
Cllr Fitzgerald also revealed he had been approved by the Conservative Party to compete to become a candidate to be Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough in the 2025 election. He would now be “pushing myself forward to seek the candidacy and win that election when it comes”.
In May Cllr Fitzgerald was re-elected unanimously to the role of leader but on November 1 odds-on to lose a vote of no confidence; he was first elected leader in May 2021, having previously been deputy leader.
You can listen to the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire interview here:
THE MOTION OF NO CONFIDENCE
We the opposition groups have worked together to put forward a vote of no confidence in the leader of the council at the full council meeting on 1st November.
The political attacks and weaponization of the council administration against opposition members has led to the relationship between the leader, including his cabinet, and the opposition groups, including former group members, deteriorating to such an extent that the delivery of our council services and having majority consent on major policy including the budget are at risk.
It is a vital time for our council to have stability and sensible leadership to navigate through the difficult financial and governance challenges it is facing.
With this in mind we the opposition groups are proposing an alternative leader and subsequent administration, which will deliver the much-needed stability our city deserves and an administration that will enjoy the support from the majority of members of the council.
We will not make any further comment until after the meeting has taken place to ensure the work of the current administration has no distractions.
Councillor Chris Harper (Proposer of the motion)
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