Top table councillor is sacked

Paul Kenny
Paul Kenny

A Wigan councillor has vowed to maintain his opposition to the controversial GM Spatial Framework despite it costing him his cabinet place.

Coun Paul Kenny has been fired from the ruling Labour Party’s top table for attending a meeting of anti-GMSF groups last week.

I offered the option to resign but in the end I sacked him. I’m afraid on this issue I think Paul has let us down

Lord Smith

His sacking - the first of its kind at Wigan Council for decades - is the first public sign of internal disputes about the major housing and jobs plan.

The Evening Post understands Coun Kenny, who had been cabinet member for leisure services, had been at loggerheads with senior colleagues about the GMSF’s environmental impact, including in his own ward of Winstanley.

Borough Labour MPs - including Coun Kenny’s wife Yvonne Fovargue, have recently spoken out criticising both the plans and the way in which they have been presented.

However, councillors were denied the chance to discuss it at last month’s full council meeting and were told they would get their chance later in the year.

It is Coun Kenny’s decision to attend a meeting of anti-GMSF groups in Leigh last week that has caused the major fall-out.

Speaking to the Evening Post, council leader Lord Smith said he was shocked his colleague had attended with opposition parties,including Ukip members.

He said: “There’s a certain amount of collective responsibility expected from members of the cabinet. We have a long term plan about growth and reform.

“We do believe as a council we need a framework, if we don’t it gives developers free licence because they can apply for green belt development and we won’t have a strategy in place to stop that.

“Paul Kenny had a specific issue in his own ward which I understood and respected. But I’m afraid he’s taken that further and been working alongside other groups in the borough, including political opponents of Labour to oppose GMSF.

“It’s beyond the collective responsibility we expect. And I think I can speak for all cabinet members when I say we were shocked he had done this. I offered the option to resign but in the end I sacked him. I’m afraid on this issue I think Paul has let us down.

“There’s a difference to looking after the interests of your own ward. It’s not me alone, we’re all shocked.”

Coun Kenny has hit back, claiming the meeting was non-political, and criticised that he was only informed of his sacking via e-mail.

He said: “When I was elected to serve Winstanley in 2012 I was opposed to the release of greenbelt at (M6) junction 25 in and I am opposed to it today.

“My position is clear and consistent so it is regrettable that I was told of my sacking by a fellow member of the council who had received the round robin email sent to all Labour members rather than by the Leader himself.

“I will continue to oppose the GMSF in its current draft and work with the M6 South of Wigan Action Group and other local groups to oppose a plan that will if left unchanged, destroy greenbelt within the borough.