South Ribble BC is due to elect a new leader next week after weeks of turmoil which have left it with no chief executive, a suspended monitoring officer, an interim leader and defections that have deprived the Conservatives of their majority.
The turmoil followed a June report by law firm Wilkin Chapman into allegations that the Lancashire district had licensed taxi drivers where there were potential incidents of child sexual exploitation.
Its report noted that monitoring officer Ian Parker had instigated investigations, and an audit had been unable to provide assurance that relevant documentation had been received to support all licence applications or renewals.
Wilkin Chapman concluded there had been ”a lack of awareness and priority given to safeguarding and the safety of taxi passengers” but that the council had acted on all its interim recommendations for reforms.
Four Tories unhappy over the issue’s handling by then leader Margaret Smith (Con) quit to sit as Independent Conservatives, depriving the party of its majority. She resigned shortly after citing health problems.
Cllr Smith said in response to the report: “The public rightly expects our licensing service to provide them with the right level of protection and we regret any instances where we have fallen short of the mark.
“We made improvements as soon as the issues were raised.”
Colin Clark (Con) became interim leader and in July said chief executive Mike Nuttall would leave after six years.
Cllr Clark said at the time: “It is safe to say that Mike will be sorely missed by all at the council – politicians and officers alike as he is very well respected and admired by all.”
Mr Nuttall is understood to be on leave pending his departure and is reported in the local press to have suspended Mr Parker as one of his final acts.
A South Ribble spokesman said: “We can confirm that a senior officer has been suspended. We are unable to comment further at this time. The council is currently advertising for an interim chief executive.”
Labour opposition group leader Paul Foster told LGC: “I am in the dark about the monitoring officer, reports in the press say the outgoing chief executive suspended him but no detail has been provided to us.
“There is no interim chief executive and the situation of the council is chaotic and frustrating.”