1 December 2021

Leadership Group reacts to Conservative withdrawal

As reported yesterday by Love Salisbury, the Conservative group on Salisbury City Council has withdrawn from the council’s four-way Leadership Group.

Cllr Charles McGrath, leader of the group and councillor for Milford, said that the outcomes of a recent meeting were ‘disappointing’ and did not reflect the Conservatives’ priorities for the city.

The Conservatives have now promised a fully costed ‘opposition budget’ encompassing the group’s five priorities.

Here are the reactions from the fellow council leaders.

Victoria Charleston, Lib Dem leader and Salisbury St Pauls councillor said:

“I am deeply disappointed that the Conservative group has thrown its teddies out of the cot, abandoning cooperation and power-sharing that the people of Salisbury told us they wanted. The result of the Conservative group choosing opposition over solutions is that there is now no power-sharing administration in place and no formal opposition.

“The Conservatives talk about ‘taking power back, it was Conservative-run Wiltshire Council that got rid of Salisbury District Council and left our community feeling ignored. It’s rather ironic that Charles McGrath, as both a city councillor and a Wiltshire councillor, wants to ‘take power back’ from himself!

“I really thought this new Conservative group had outgrown their infighting and pettiness which had seen them change leaders four times in twelve months, lost £1.3m of investment to the city with People Friendly Salisbury, and accepted extraordinarily costly street cleaning contracts from Wiltshire Council without proper scrutiny.

“Frankly, I see no place for party politics and infighting at the City Council and the Liberal Democrats in Salisbury will continue to work with all who wish to see our city thrive, ensuring strong leadership, vision, and investment in our area.

“I look forward to conversations with the other groups to pick up the pieces on the Conservative decision and work out how we move forward with our agenda to ensure Salisbury is a green city, a thriving city, an active listening city and a wonderful place for everyone to live, work and enjoy.”

Victoria Charleston, Lib Dem leader and Salisbury St Pauls councillor said:

Ian Tomes, Labour leader and councillor for St. Martin’s and Cathedral, pointed out the struggles of continuous changes in leadership for the Conservatives.

“With a joint administration, there are clearly going to be priorities for the city that reflect the joint administration and the wishes of the electorate. Compromise is a key part of joint administration. It is sad that the Conservatives gave up at the first hurdle.

“Throughout the land, there does seem to be a conflict within the Tory party between those who are ‘true blue’ Conservatives and those who a ‘Labour Light’ in terms of policy. With the continuous changes of Conservative leadership in Salisbury, 5 leaders in 4 years, those conflicts remain in Salisbury”.

Ian Tomes

This notion was further reflected by Mayor Caroline Corbin who commented:

“I feel that there has been a problem within the Conservative leadership with so many leaders over the last administration and this [one] which only started in May, and Councillor McGrath being the second of the current administration.

“I would like to see more public participation in all our meetings and would like online participation as well to maximise involvement.”

Independent candidate, Cllr Annie Riddle, told Love Salisbury she stood as an independent candidate after seeing the damage party politics was causing.

“I am hugely disappointed that the Conservatives are no longer committed to working in partnership. I stood as an independent councillor because I could see the damage that party point-scoring was causing. And now they’re offering us more of the same.

“Last week, as we group leaders began discussing strategic priorities for the upcoming budget, Cllr McGrath introduced an uncosted proposal for us to ‘take back control’ of the city’s pavements.

“He’d been talking to his Wiltshire Council colleagues and they were happy to hand over responsibility. Well, everybody would like to see our pavements kept in a better, safer state of repair. Wiltshire have failed to maintain them properly for a decade.

“In an ideal world, I’d love to relieve them of the problem. But with taxes rising and public services shrinking, no responsible council could take on such a huge commitment without knowing the cost implications and without being
given adequate funds to do the job.

“Everything that Wiltshire took from us and now ‘gives’ back comes with a bill attached. Never forget that”.

Written by
Beth Doherty
View all articles
Written by Beth Doherty