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Wayneing support? Independent councillors won't back Conservative leader

A series of crunch meetings will be held in the next two weeks - with the leadership of both the Conservative party and ultimately perhaps the council in the balance.
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Last week's election resolved little, with both the Conservatives and Labour/Lib Dem/Greens finishing with 28 seats.

That meant that no party has overall control of the 60-seat council, meaning that the support of each of the four independents would prove crucial in the coming days. 

While both the Conservatives and Labour groups cautiously celebrated key seats such as Ravensthorpe and North respectively, in the early hours of May 6 Labour leader Shaz Nawaz told Peterborough Matters that he was confident he and the other non-Conservative councillors could form an administration - "watch this space, "were his final words of the interview. 

Now the independent councillors who make up Peterborough First have announced that they will not give their support to any Conservative administration led by Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald, following the previous council leader’s re-election as group leader this week.

Councillor Fitzgerald was re-elected unopposed as leader of the Conservative group at its AGM on Monday (May 9), and told PM earlier this week that he was hopeful of gaining the support of the independents to continue the current administration.

However PM was told that a possible vote of no confidence in the leader would be taken - and that appears to be backed up by today's news. 

Cllr John Fox, of Peterborough First, said: “I cannot speak for the other three independents in our group because we are all independent councillors who will make up our minds individually; but for me personally, with councillor Fitzgerald re-elected as Leader of the Conservative group, then I will not support him.”

Councillor Judy Fox echoed his feelings regarding councillor Fitzgerald. Councillor Lane was unavailable for comment, but councillor Fox said: “While I wouldn’t want to speak for Steve, as he is his own man and independent, I do know that in this matter we are of a like mind.”

On Wednesday (May 11), councillor Chris Harper, who has been installed as new Leader of the Peterborough First group, said: “With councillor Wayne Fitzgerald re-installed as Leader of the Conservative Group I can state that I will not be supporting him or the Conservative administration.

“Now, unless the Conservative Group decide to change their leader, which looks highly unlikely at this stage, and while I cannot speak for the other three independent members of Peterborough First, I can say that I personally will not support Wayne.

“We, Peterborough First, have a meeting to talk with whoever is elected the leader of the Labour group and the Lib Dems group.

“I also have a meeting scheduled with the Conservative group for next Monday evening (May 16), after which we may know a lot more.

“We four councillors in Peterborough First are each independent councillors who follow our own consciences.”

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Councillor Wayne Fitzgerald responded to the comments by saying: “We don’t have the support of the independent councillors at the moment – how could we, when they are independent?

“I’m disappointed in councillor John Fox’s comments, and I’ve tried to reach out to him on numerous occasions, but he refuses to talk to me. He talks about not agreeing with my policies, but I have no idea what that means.

“If it means that he doesn’t agree with the decisions that I and the Cabinet are having to take, I understand that; but he’s not discussed those with me either.

“Sadly, in respect of councillor Chris Harper, I believe it is a personality complex between he and I; but again, I would say that my door remains open to all and any for discussions should they want to.”

Councillor Fitzgerald says his wife, Lynn, has told him to ‘pack it all in’ and to put his health first.

He added: “The reason I do this is because I have a responsibility. And if I don’t do it, I’m fearful of what might happen to the council.

“In my twelve months as Leader of the Council, I have been the most collaborative in living memory, because I have tried to involve everybody.

“I’ve been told by the people who came in to do our governance review that I am the best person to lead this council through what are difficult and challenging times.

“And that is what I am doing, and hope to continue doing after May 23. We shall see.”