THE Conservative group leader at Borough of Poole is proposing to step aside while retaining her leadership of the council.
Cllr Elaine Atkinson, who believes she will face a challenge to her leadership of the Tories at a meeting on Monday night, has said she was intending to step down as group leader in May anyway.
She said: “Cllr Judy Butt is trying to pre-empt that. The proposition she is going to put at the meeting on Monday is to oust me as group leader.
“I don’t believe there is support for that,” she said.
But Cllr Butt, who is secretary of the group of 19 remaining Conservative councillors, has said she has not moved a vote of no confidence. She said she was obliged to deal with the motions tabled by other members.
Recently, the group has seen two defections with Cllr Sally Carpenter joining Poole People and Cllr Tony Woodcock becoming the first Ukip councillor, while the borough has been rocked over controversial proposals for traveller sites, which saw Cllr Butt sacked from her cabinet position.
Cllr Les Burden, who represents Creekmoor and has been on the council for 15 years said: “The problem we have got I put down to the fact she has, in my opinion, tried to stifle debate.”
The backbencher said: “We are entitled to our opinion, it may not be what the leadership want to hear.” He added: “Two people crossing the floor is not good.
“Hopefully, the outcome of this meeting on Monday, I’m hoping, will be some positive way forward to the more harmonious working of the group.”
Cllr Atkinson, who became council leader in 2010 after the death of Brian Leverett – who was council leader without leading his group – said she had been discussing relinquishing the group leadership at the AGM in May.
“We have been trying to work out the best way to run for the elections next year. There is big pressure from Ukip and Poole People. My proposal is that somebody else picks up that role in the run-up to the elections.”
She believed there would be little support for a motion of no confidence but said if someone else did take over it would only be until May when group elections take place.
She added: “I was elected leader of the council for four years by the council, not by the group.
“I am not proposing to relinquish that. There is too much work to do.”
Judy Butt "saddened and offended" by leader's claims
COUNCILLOR Butt said she was “saddened and greatly offended” by claims she had called for a no-confidence vote in Cllr Atkinson.
She added: “As group secretary I am responsible for advising the Conservative group as to the procedures and rules.
“The vote of no confidence in her as group leader and council leader is in full conformity with those rules and has been called by several Conservatives.”
She said her recent dismissal from the Borough of Poole cabinet over the issue of traveller sites has been “unfair and unwarranted”.
Cllr Butt added she would “do all I can to maintain the honour and dignity of our group, which in my opinion is key.”
No challenge for council leadership
COUNCILLOR Mike Brooke, leader of the 18-strong Liberal Democrat group, said they were not intending to mount a challenge for leadership of the council.
However after the defections, “We did discuss it,” he said. “But with a year to go (until the election) basically what can you achieve in a year?”
He added: “Politically it doesn’t make sense for us.”
He said his group had not been approached directly about a challenge to the council leadership and would in all probability not support one at a council meeting that came out of the blue.
The hung council has 42 members of whom 19 are Conservative, 18 Liberal Democrat, four Poole People and one UKIP.