Pendle Borough Council’s only British National Party councillor has rubbished Conservative claims he has done a “deal” with the ruling Labour Lib Dem administration over fears he now holds the balance of power on the council.
BNP Coun. Brian Parker, who represents Marsden ward, potentially has an influential say in the running of the council after two recent defections to the Conservatives, one from Labour and one from the Liberal Democrats, meant that no party now has majority control.
The unusual situation has created a huge row between the various political groups on the council which culminated in the recent budget meeting, carried by Labour and the Lib Dems.
Furious Tories accused Labour and the Lib Dems of offering a deal to BNP Coun. Brian Parker, who represents Marsden ward, to vote with their rivals.
Pendle’s Tory MP Andrew Stephenson also weighed into the dispute, accusing the Pendle Labour and Lib Dems of siding with the “racist” BNP councillor.
Coun. Parker said: “Following the defections I found myself with a minor bit of influence and decided I would do my best for the people of Marsden ward.
“Marsden has missed out on capital funding in recent years and so I saw an opportunity to get some funding to resurface the road from Garrick Street to Alexander Street in my ward.
“I gained what I would call an informal agreement from Labour and the Lib Dems. Regarding the budget meeting, I did decide to vote with the Labour Lib Dem proposal.
“However, this is because I felt that Lib Dem Couns. Tony Greaves and David Whipp trounced the Tories in the debate.
“On top of that I am also angry that this Tory Government has withdrawn millions of pounds of funding from Pendle.
“As for our MP calling me a racist in Parliament, I feel that was disgraceful. I have never had a high opinion of him, but now it is even lower.
“This whole thing is about local issues in my mind and doing what is best for the constituents in my ward. Andrew Stephenson has always toed the party line and done nothing to stop Government cuts to Pendle.”
Mr Stephenson had told the House of Commons that the parties’ deal had turned “a blind eye to racism”, a claim which has led to Lord Greaves, the Pendle Lib Dem leader of writing to the Speaker of the House of Commons pointing out that Mr Stephenson was not telling the truth and that “lying in Parliament is a serious matter.”
But the leader of Pendle’s Conservative group, Coun. Joe Cooney, hit back.
He said: “Since the story broke, the Conservatives have been subject to ridicule for disapproving this affiliation, no matter how loose.
“However, following Coun. Parker’s frankness about the discussions that have taken place with Labour and the Liberal Democrats, I feel vindicated for speaking out against this abhorrent deal.
“It’s also time both local, regional and national Labour and Liberal Democrat parties started in an investigation into this matter as quickly as possible.
“Both the Pendle Labour Party and Pendle Liberal Democrats have issued very closely worded denials that formal meetings have taken place.
“If you read their denials, there is little or no repudiation of the BNP, but a good deal of criticism of the Conservatives.”