02:39PM, Wednesday 29 November 2017
A new leader of Slough Borough Council (SBC) was elected last night (Tuesday) after former leader Cllr Sohail Munawar resigned before a vote of no confidence could be held.
The motion to remove Cllr Munawar (Elliman) accused him of failing to conduct a transparent recruitment process to secure a permanent chief executive and adopting ‘authoritarian control’.
Cllr Munawar is currently suspended from the Labour Party during an investigation into allegations of bullying and sexual harassment but has been cleared in a council investigation.
Before councillors at The Curve in William Street could hold a vote of no confidence, Cllr Munawar announced his resignation.
Cllr Munawar said allegations that he sent an explicit video to colleagues, friends and family over WhatsApp took him to a ‘very dark place’ and said the damage caused would make it difficult to continue serving as leader.
“That really tore my whole life apart, not only myself but my family,” he added.
“I want to thank all my colleagues for giving me this chance, 18 months ago, to become the leader of this wonderful town.”
Councillors then chose Cllr James Swindlehurst (Lab, Cippenham Green) as their new leader.
He said: “To be elected council leader of a town I have called my home for the past 16 years is a truly humbling experience and I am extremely proud to have been given this responsibility.
“Slough is going through an enormous period of transformation. There is a lot of work to do and some difficult decisions ahead.
“I will be working day and night to ensure every Slough resident benefits from the amazing opportunities coming to our town.”
He joked about his ‘Marmite’ reputation among colleagues and the view he was the 'attack dog' of former SBC leader Cllr Rob Anderson (Britwell and Northborough).
Cllr Swindlehurst, who is now SBC’s third leader in 18 months, was first elected as a councillor in 2002 and served as deputy leader under Cllr Anderson until June last year.
Cllr Pavitar Mann (Lab, Britwell and Northborough) said: “I know that some members in this room may have political differences with Cllr Swindlehurst and may have even been privy to some political sparring with him.
“However, I do not believe that anyone in this room can deny James’ commitment to this town, the many hours of hard work he puts in week in week out, his understanding and knowledge of local government or the fact that he has a clear vision and will ensure that this is delivered to the benefit of our residents.”
Cllr Swindlehurst dismissed SBC’s cabinet and will carry out a complete reshuffle.
He has appointed Cllr Sabia Hussain (Lab, Central) as his deputy leader.
Councillors at Tuesday’s meeting also approved a motion to adhere to ‘actions speak louder’ values, calling for open and transparent handing of bullying and abuse complaints, inspired by a recent training session in which councillors examined their conduct in meetings.
Cllr Swindlehurst said: “Where my behaviour has fallen short I want to apologise now and draw a line under that.”
He said he wants to ‘put to bed’ behavioural issues the council faces and suggested cross-party involvement with the motion.
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