Axed chairman describes her sacking as a political power grab

Former chariman of Mansfield coucnil Coun Katrina Atherton.
Former chariman of Mansfield coucnil Coun Katrina Atherton.

The axed chairman of Mansfield District Council has described her sacking as part of a ‘political power grab’.

Labour councillor Katrina Atherton spoke out after she was removed as Chairman of Mansfield District Council at an Extraordinary General Meeting on Wednesday.

The council’s youngest ever chairman has been replaced with Councillor Martin Wright from the Mansfield Independent Forum.

The move leaves the authority under the control of the majority coalition between Mansfield Independent Forum and UKIP.

Mayor Kate Allsop also announced that managing director, Ruth Marlow had left the council by mutual agreement.

Speaking this morning, Coun Atherton, who was appointed chair of the council in May aged 28, said: “I am disappointed - it really galls me that the mayor went out of her way to tell everyone what a good job I had been doing but did it anyway.

“I have been one of the hardest working chairs.

“As far as I am aware I was the youngest sitting councillor in the country.

“I have spoken to hundreds of young people about getting involved in politics and now I have to tell them I am not the chair any more.”

“Staff are frightened they could lose their jobs. It is a political power grab.

They had the power to do it and they did.”

The political make up of the council is Labour (18 members), Mansfield Independent Forum (16 members, 17 Including the Mayor) and UKIP (two members).

Councillor Nick Bennett, who was re-elected in May as a Labour Councillor for Kingsway has joined the Mansfield Independent Forum.

A coalition was formed between the Mansfield Independent Forum and UKIP in July 2015.

The coalition now has a majority of one.

Coun Atherton told Chad her sacking and the loss of two other Labour women chairman had left the council lacking diversity.

Coun Atherton herself has been replaced as chairman of Select Commission 2 by Independent councillor Nick Bennett.

Councillor Amanda Fisher who used to be chairman of select 1 has been replaced by Coun Stephen Garner

Councillor Sally Higgins chairman of planning has been replaced by Independent councillor Bill Drewett.

Coun Atherton said: “There is no diversity in the chairs now.

“They have replaced every single female chair with men.”

She said there was no case in law for removing a sitting chairman in mid-term.

“No other authority has done it and it damages the council in the end.”

She said she would not challenge the decision, adding: “It would be a waste of time and the council’s money.

“I think we have a legal case to challenge but it would not be in the best interest of the council in the long term.

“We have an independent /UKIP executive and scrutiny should come from the opposition. That is healthy for democracy.

“There is not one councillor from Mansfield Woodhouse or Warsop with community chairs or on the executive.”

She added:“I think it’s chaos at the council now the managing director has gone suddenly without any real explanation other than it was by mutual agreement.

“I think it is terribly sad. I wish Ruth all the best of luck. She is a very knowledgeable and skilled lady.”

In a statement Mayor Allsop said: “It is highly regrettable that Katrina has been replaced.

“She is a very capable young woman and has been an excellent chairman, who has served the council well.

“However, we could not leave the chairman’s casting vote with the Labour Party now that we have successfully achieved a majority through the coalition.”

The new Chairmen of committees are: vice chairman - Independent councillor Stephen Harvey; chairman of planning - Independent councillor Bill Drewett; chairman of licensing - Independent councillor Stephen Harvey; chairman of standards - Independent councillor Ron Jelley; chairman of Audit - UKIP councillor Sid Walker; chairman of Polling Places Review Sub Committee - Coun Stephen Garner; chairman of Select Commission 1 - coun Stephen Garner; chair of select commission 2 - Independent councillor Nick Bennett; chair of Select Commission 3 - Independent councillor Andy Sissons.