Brentwood Council leader set for crunch talks with rebels

A crunch meeting has been called by council leader Cllr Louise McKinlay of the ruling Conservative group as colleagues threaten a mutiny.

Despite public calls from some in the party for her to stand down, she told the Recorder that she believes she has the support of the majority of Tories.

Conservative councillor Russell Quirk (Hutton North) called on her to quit after he had a Freedom of Information request for e-mail communications about town hall discussions between Cllr McKinlay and head of governance, Brian Keane, turned down.

Several prominent Conservatives have joined his call for the information to be released.

They include councillors William Lloyd, Keith Sparling, Will Russell and Cheralyn Lewis, as well as former party official Ken Lewis.

Cllr Quirk told the Recorder: “My belief as a Conservative is that there is nothing that is in the public interest that should not be made public, bearing in mind that it involves thousands of pounds of public money.”

He added of Cllr McKinlay: “She just needs to go gracefully, and go now.”

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Cllr Lloyd (Warley) said: “There have been a number of fundamental things going wrong and Louise and (deputy leader) Roger Hirst, who have led us through these, are not the right people to lead us out.”

Cllr McKinlay (Hutton North) said: “Obviously there are ways within the group for people to raise issues, but this hasn’t happened. I’m going to be calling a group meeting shortly.

“The focus should be on delivering for Brentwood, on what’s right for the borough.”

When asked if she believed she had the majority of support within her party, she said: “I do.” She added that the decision not to release information was not made by her but council officers.

And support for her came from Cllr Chris Hossack (Hutton East). He said: “This is about the leadership of the council, this is not a tiddlywinks association or a social club.

“Russell has a mandate to lead the Town Hall Delivery Group and I’m not sure why he’s trying to stick the knife into Louise McKinlay and Roger Hirst. Louise is the best person for the job.

“He said he doesn’t even want to be leader, so what is he even proposing?”

Cllr Lloyd said that none of the rebels are putting themselves forward for the role, but there are a number of capable people within the party.

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