ANN Lucas has been dramatically ousted as leader of Coventry City Council this evening by her own Labour colleagues.
The new leader will be longstanding Labour councillor George Duggins, who fronted a co-ordinated campaign by Labour group rebels to defeat her, as first revealed by the Coventry Observer last week.
Voting in a secret ballot of the ruling Labour group’s councillors at its Annual General Meeting tonight gave Coun Duggins victory by 21 votes to 18.
Coun Abdul Khan – who was selected without opposition as council deputy leader by Coun Lucas after the death last year of predecessor Phil Townshend – will stay on as deputy leader.
In 2013, Coun Duggins was removed from his previous post of council deputy leader when Coun Lucas – alongside her then deputy Coun Townshend – successfully pulled off a coup against former leader, councillor John Mutton.
Coun Duggins came within four votes of ousting Coun Lucas last year, when on votes cast she won by 23 to 17, which she herself had described as a ‘points victory, not a knock-out’.
Following tonight’s knock-out blow, Coun Duggins will officially become council leader at Coventry City Council’s Annual General Meeting on May 19.
Some Lucas loyalists on the cabinet are also expected to be ousted.
As we revealed last week, the plotters claimed much of the Coventry public had grown increasingly alienated by Coun Lucas’s ‘autocratic’, ‘dogmatic’ and ‘undemocratic’ style of leadership.
They also had concerns that Coun Lucas had too often misled the public on major issues, which she denied, including the Ricoh Arena dispute with Coventry City Football Club – as revealed by an Observer investigation; and our recent exclusive story about £175,000-salaried council chief executive Martin Reeves being quietly replaced by an acting chief executive as cover for his new chief executive role for the interim West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
Many Labour group members felt they had been shut out of important decision-making, including on the terms for Coventry council joining the deeply controversial WMCA headed by an elected mayor, a system rejected for the council by Coventry voters by two-to-one in a referendum in 2012.
It is understood Coun Lucas’s opponents campaigned on a platform of the need for more truth and transparency, and more decisions taken by democratically elected councillors and the local Labour party membership.
The rebels also believe the council under Coun Lucas has not done enough to challenge the Conservatives in government over free schools and academies, and cuts to local authorities. It is also understood there will be a review of whether long-awaited plans for economic regeneration of the city centre is matching the council’s spin and rhetoric.
Labour lost a net two seats in yesterday’s council elections to the Tories, who now have 15 seats against Labour’s 39. Labour candidate Rois Ali took Cheylesmore, but the party lost in Woodlands (Pat Hertherton), Westwood (Maya Ali) and Bablake (Alan East), where concerns included the loss of Green belt from planning housing development.
Coun Lucas told BBC Coventry and Warwickshire this morning she did not know if she would still be leader tomorrow, saying it would be the democratic will of the Labour group of councillors.
More to come.