David Parsons has resigned as leader of Leicestershire CC, avoiding a ‘no confidence’ vote from his own Conservative group.
Cllr Parsons informed his deputy Nick Rushton of his decision on Tuesday afternoon ahead of a meeting of the group.
Cllr Rushton will assume the leadership of the Conservative group ahead of a group election in a fortnight’s time. If elected group leader then, he will be confirmed as county leader at the next full council meeting in September.
The council released a statement saying it had received a letter from Cllr Parsons confirming his resignation and that Cllr Rushton would be acting leader.
Cllr Parsons’ grip on the leadership of the council had been tenuous since he received a censure from a standards committee two weeks ago on account of his expense claims for trips to Brussels. Since then it has been confirmed that he faces a police investigation relating to financial irregularities.
The former LGA chairmanship hopeful was last week forced to stand down as chair of the association’s environment and housing board and regional body East Midlands Councils.
Cllr Parsons was first advised by his deputy to stand down last week. This week, a motion of no confidence was tabled for a meeting of the county’s Conservative group. Cllr Parsons met with Cllr Rushton and Conservative group chair David Jennings ahead of the meeting at which point he informed them of his intention to resign.
Cllr Rushton said Cllr Parsons’ decision was the “honourable thing to do” and said it was in the best interests of “the people of Leicestershire, the Conservative group, the council and himself”. He later told the Leicester Mercury: “He would not want to have gone this way but it has happened to greater people than David Parsons. It happened to Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill.”
Cllr Rushton said he had decided not to call an emergency full council meeting to confirm a new leader as many people would have booked holidays and it would cause “considerable expense”.
A corporate governance committee of the council met on Friday to consider whistle blowing complaints made against Cllr Parsons in relation to his expense claims for trips to Brussels. The committee resolved that he would be invoiced for an amount of £1,800 that he still owed despite claiming the week before that he had paid all the money he owed to the council.
The committee noted that as well as Cllr Parsons’ expense claims for trips to Brussels now being investigated by the police, there would now be a further standards investigation.
The committee also heard from council chief executive John Sinnott who said that he had spent more than half an hour with Cllr Parsons at the LGA conference in which he explained to the leader that the case had been referred to the police on Tuesday afternoon. Despite this, Cllr Parsons has claimed in a statement that he had only become aware of the development after reading about it in a council press release published on Wednesday afternoon.
Committee chair David Snartt (Con) said that he had been “most concerned” by the coverage that the case had garnered and said the committee had “important responsibilities to ensure the issues identified were properly addressed”.
Cllr Snartt also refused Cllr Parsons permission to address the meeting.