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Tory councillors criticise council leader and say executive is ‘past sell-by date’

PUBLISHED: 07:00 14 May 2012

Council leader Nigel Ashton has come under criticism from fellow Conservative party members

Council leader Nigel Ashton has come under criticism from fellow Conservative party members

Archant

TWO leading Conservative councillors have called for change at the top of North Somerset Council, claiming its hierarchy have ‘lost touch’ with the community and party members.

Tim Marter and Carl Francis-Pester have spoken out against the six-man executive at the top of the council, saying its members are ‘past their sell-by date’ and claiming there is widespread discontent among Conservative councillors.

At a Conservative group meeting held before Tuesday’s annual meeting, council leader Nigel Ashton proposed removing Cllr Marter from his current role as the authority’s representative on the Avon Fire Authority.

But fellow group members supported Cllr Marter, and he has remained in his post.

He said: “I was only told about 20 minutes before the meeting that I was going to lose the post – nobody had warned me about it and I think it was all dealt with in a very underhanded and spiteful way.

“It’s because I’m not a yes-man. The leader said it was because it should be somebody else’s turn, but I’ve only been on it for a year and I think I have represented North Somerset well on it in that time.

“As a result of our row, I have now been told that I will never get another role in Cllr Ashton’s administration.”

Cllr Marter said many within the party are concerned at the way the authority is being run by the leader and executive, and called for a change at the top.

He said: “There is a real lack of communication from the top which affects us as councillors and the people we represent.

“I think the current executive has lost touch with people, and is past its sell-by date. I’m not saying I should be part of the hierarchy, I’m saying that there are concerns within my party at the way things are being run.”

Fellow party member Cllr Francis-Pester, who mounted an unsuccessful leadership bid last year, agreed, saying: “Cllr Marter has been a very effective representative for us on the fire authority and I think that was dealt with in a very underhand way.

“I think there is something wrong when you have the leader swearing at a fellow member of the party, as Cllr Ashton did at Cllr Marter during our group meeting on Tuesday.

“What concerns me is that there appears to be personal vendettas carried out against councillors who aren’t lemmings, and this has a real effect on how the council runs on an operational level.

“I think are many within the party who believe that the leader is running the executive and therefore the council like a personal fiefdom.”

The Mercury left a message with Cllr Ashton’s personal assistant, but he did not respond before the paper went to press.

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