Surprise defeat for council’s Lib Dem leader once derided by former council leader as akin to being ‘savaged by a cotton bud”

Cambridgeshire County Council offices at Shire Hall

Cambridgeshire County Council offices at Shire Hall - Credit: Archant

HIS political attacks were famously compared by former county council leader Nick Clarke to being “savaged by a cotton bud” although it is unlikely that accounted for the surprise defeat of Councillor Kilian Bourke as Lib Dem leader.

shire hall, Cambridgeshire

shire hall, Cambridgeshire - Credit: Archant

Just days prior to a high stakes Cambridgeshire County Council meeting that will determine the fate- and fortunes- of political leaders, parties and members, Cllr Bourke has lost a vote to remain group leader.

He has been replaced by Councillor Maurice Leeke, a former county councillor of some 20 years standing, who returned to Shire Hall after an eight year gap.

Cllr Bourke retained his own seat on the council but his party suffered the loss of seven which still secures their place as the second largest party but only two seats more than UKIP’s 12 seats.

Cllr Leeke believes his past experiences of county council life and working within a structure where no party has overall control was a factor in members choosing him over Kilian.

The new Lib Dem line up has also set its stall out by calling for the end of Cabinet style governance at Shire Hall and its replacement, within a year, by committees.

Consolatory remarks on Twitter for Cllr Bourke included some from former county council leader Shona Johnstone who stood down at this month’s elections.

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“Didn’t see that coming,” she tweeted, “Politics is a rough old game.”

Cllr Bourke, in his manifesto launch for the May elections, promised to “make it easier for people get around the county by stopping the Tory cuts to our bus service, creating a rail link to Wisbech.

“To fund our proposals we would sell the county’s over grand HQ, which costs £1M a year to maintain poorly, and invest in renewable energy sources that would bring in £2.5M each year to fund basic services.”

Also back on the agenda is likely to be the decision by the former county council leader to stop a potential £1million profit for the council by allowing wind turbines on council owned farms at Farcet, Littleport, Coveney and Warboys.

The proposals had reached an advanced stage but when he became leader Cllr Clarke said it was clear “that the people of Cambridgeshire do not want wind farms, and we should be listening to those views.”

New line up at Shire Hall: Tories (32) Lib Dem (14) UKIP (12) Labour (7) Independent (4). No party in overall control.