Leader of North Northants Tories says 'technical issues' meant original deputy leader vote was not valid

He's fired back after the original vote winner was given the boot from his position

Monday, 24th May 2021, 9:49 am
Updated Monday, 24th May 2021, 9:50 am
Cllr Smithers is due to be ratified as the first ever leader of North Northamptonshire Council on Wednesday.

The leader of the North Northamptonshire Conservative group says his new deputy leader Helen Howell was voted in 'overwhelmingly' by her fellow members.

Cllr Jason Smithers spoke to the Northants Telegraph this morning (Monday, May 24) about reports of rift in his party after Martin Griffiths was reportedly ousted from his deputy position.

Both men had been due to have their positions as leader and deputy leader at this Wednesday's first North Northamptonshire Council meeting. But late last night it emerged that the deputy position was actually going to be taken by Cllr Smithers' East Northants colleauge Helen Howell after the original results of a zoom ballot were cancelled because of technical problems with the zoom link.

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Cllr Smithers said that there was 'no issue' and that the Cllr Howell had overwhelming support from members of the Conservative group.

"There were technical issues with the original vote which meant we had to re-run it the following day and Cllr Howell was overwhelmingly voted in as deputy," he said.

"Then another zoom meeting was held yesterday, this time in the presence of CCHQ, so that the vote could be ratified."

Some members are said to be furious at the outcome of the second ballot after they said all four deputy leader candidates had agreed that the first vote was valid.

"I have been incredibly busy and have not decided yet on the chairs of the committees," he said.

"I will do so this afternoon. I have been in touch with the leader of the Labour group to ask them to put any prospective names forward and I have absolutely no problem with a member of the opposition doing the financial scrutiny roles or indeed being the overall scrutiny chair. It doesn't matter what party they're from as long as they are up to the job."

The first meeting of the new council is set to take place on Wednesday.