Blackpool councillor who rebelled on golf course vote loses committee role
A Blackpool councillor who defied his Labour party colleagues in a vote on proposals to redevelop Stanley Park Golf Course has been thrown out of his £10,500 chairman’s role.
Coun Martin Mitchell used his casting vote as chairman of the tourism, economy and communities scrutiny committee to refer an executive decision over the future of the land back to full council.
The plans to reduce the course to nine holes and develop part of the site on East Park Drive as an Adrenaline World adventure park with up to 250 holiday lodges, have attracted hundreds of objections from residents.
In the latest reshuffle of committee roles by the ruling Labour group agreed at the annual meeting of the council on Monday, Coun Mitchell has been replaced by Coun Fred Jackson as chairman.
Coun Mitchell said after the meeting: “The only feedback I have had regarding my performance as chairman has been positive.
“I have been informed I am being removed so Labour members can gain more experience, but this doesn’t make sense since I am being replaced by someone who has been a councillor for almost 50 years.”
He added: “I am forced to look for other explanations. In July last year I chaired a call-in meeting of the committee, using my casting vote to refer the
decision on Stanley Park golf course (to transfer the land for development) back to full council.
“The decision to refer back was contrary to the stance of the ruling Labour group and the other Labour members of the committee.
“For scrutiny to work committee chairs have to be fearlessly independent, without regard to party interests. It makes a mockery of scrutiny to remove a chairman for voting the ‘wrong’ way.
“I have not been sacked for doing my job badly. I may have been sacked for doing my job too well.”
Coun Mitchell has also lost the annual £10,489 allowance that comes with acting as a committee chairman, and said he had refused an alternative cabinet assistant post which has an allowance of £5,240.
The decision was also questioned during the meeting by Independent councillor Gary Coleman.
He said: “One worries Coun Mitchell has been taken off the chairmanship as a result of the call in meeting a few months ago regarding the Stanley Park golf course and the sale of half the golf course.
“It just seems sad that what should be a non-political role on a scrutiny appears to have become political.”
Council leader Coun Lynn Williams told the meeting it was “ultimately down to me as leader” to decide how chairmanships were distributed.
She added: “I don’t have to give any reassurances or defend my decisions. ”
At a special meeting of the tourism, economy and communities scrutiny committee last July to consider the call in, Coun Mitchell said he was “not convinced the executive considered all the relevant arguments.”
He added: “I think due to the importance of this matter, it would be appropriate to involve all councillors.”
Conservative group leader Coun Tony Williams had called in the decision and asked for it to go before the full council after the executive had voted unanimously to appropriate the land on East Park Drive for planning purposes.
The original decision by the executive to dispose of the land to developers was upheld by 17 votes to 13 when it went back before the full council last September.
The council will receive £2m for the land, and say the scheme will create around 150 jobs.
The course, designed by Dr Alister MacKenzie who laid out more than 50 golf courses including Augusta, is due to be reduced to nine holes from September 1 this year, with a planning application for the new development yet to be submitted.
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