Council leader Michael Wilson steps down from top role at Havant Borough Council

THE leader of Havant Borough Council is stepping down from his role.
Cllr Michael Wilson, leader of Havant Borough Council.Cllr Michael Wilson, leader of Havant Borough Council.
Cllr Michael Wilson, leader of Havant Borough Council.

Conservative councillor Michael Wilson has held the position for three years.

At the upcoming annual Conservative group meeting, set to be held on Monday (May 17), members will choose the group leader - and thus the leader of the council - for the next municipal year.

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Cllr Wilson says he has decided to not put his name forward again.

In emails seen by The News, Cllr Wilson said that he has been contemplating when to ‘hand the baton’ to the next leader ‘for some weeks’.

He expresses gratitude to his colleagues and calls his experience as leader an ‘immense privilege’, before wishing success to his successor - who is not yet confirmed.

The news was met with disappointment from some, and thanks was given to Cllr Wilson for his work - although others say they are welcoming the opportunity for a change.

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Cllr Tim Pike said: ‘We received the message relatively recently that the current leader has decided not to put himself forward this time round. They have to seek re-election every year, that’s the standard process.

‘As with all council leaders, the last year has been incredibly difficult and hard work.

‘They’ve been extremely busy with something that wasn’t part of their plans to do, dealing with the pandemic rather than having the time to focus on their other priorities that they wanted to achieve.

‘I think it is surprising, but on reflection, having read what he said, I can understand why he’s stepping down.’

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Ed Rees, chairman of Havant Conservative Association, said: ‘The Conservative Party would like to thank Cllr Wilson because he’s done a lot of good, certainly with Horizon Leisure trust, and getting us through the pandemic.’

However, Conservative councillor David Keast said to The News: ‘I believe that members wanted a change in direction.

‘There’s been some concerns for a considerable while, and they’ve come to a head.

‘I think it’s the right and honourable thing to do. I believe that considering the number of people who would like to see change, he’s done the right thing.’

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Cllr Keast recently called for a vote of no confidence in Cllr Wilson in an email which highlights concerns with communication, accountability, infighting, and the relegation of ‘hardworking councillors’ to the backbenches due to ‘personal vendettas’.

The email also draws attention to prior correspondence from Cllr Wilson to the Conservative group, in which the leader states that he ‘doubts’ that others would have been elected if it was not for their representing the Conservative party, and suggests that they should stand as independents if they disagreed.

In his announcement email to the group, Cllr Wilson says that those who have suggested the time had come for a change in leader have been ‘pushing at a half-open door’.

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In response, fellow Conservative councillor Pam Crellin says that she feels it is ‘disgusting’ that Cllr Wilson has been ‘pressured’ into his decision by some councillors who have ‘axe to grind’, and that it has made her feel that she needs to ‘watch her back’.

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When contacted, Cllr Crellin said she had no comment to make.

A Conservative Havant Borough Council councillor, who asked to remain anonymous, said: ‘This is what happens when there is no meaningful opposition on Havant Borough Council.

‘The Tory group fights itself when we should be standing up for our residents.’

Cllr Wilson said that he decided to step down following the elections to prevent any ‘disadvantage’ to the party.

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Following the May 6 election, all 14 of the Havant Borough Council seats up for grabs went to Conservative candidates.

Cllr Wilson was approached for comment.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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