Councillors face disciplinary action in libraries row

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THREE Tory Doncaster Council cabinet members could face disciplinary action for refusing to support the party line on library closures.

Deputy mayor Coun Patricia Schofield, cabinet member for neighbourhoods Coun Cynthia Ransome, and cabinet member for business Coun Jonathan Wood, backed Mayor Peter Davies at a meeting earlier this month which agreed to move forward a review of the libraries service.

The review proposed the closure of 14 branches, including some branches in Conservative heartlands such as Bawtry.

Doncaster Conservative group leader Coun Allan Jones confirmed the cabinet members had been told by the Conservative group on the council not to support the proposals.

He said the party wanted Mr Davies to put off the move until there had been more time for consultation.

A meeting of the party is due to be held today to discuss what disciplinary action should be taken.

The mayor eventually announced he would allow up to 12 months for consultation - just days before the full council met to vote on whether to back his budget.

Coun Wood, Coun Ransome and Coun Schofield all said they were unable to comment on the matter.

Mr Davies appointed the three Conservatives to his cabinet following his surprise election as mayor in June 2009.

He had to bring in a combination of independent councillors and members of other parties as there were no sitting councillors from his own English Democrats.

Ray Barlett, a former Conservative group leader on Doncaster Council, was asked to leave the group after voting against the party line on a proposal to sell the Keepmoat Stadium, while Martin Winter was mayor.

He said he had always thought it was a mistake to have Conservatives serving on a cabinet under a mayor from a different party.

Mr Barlett said: “I think we have a big problem here. I think it is difficult to be a member of cabinet run by an English Democrat who is giving one position, and at the same time you have a particular party policy which is another position. Which way do you go?

“I don’t think it was a good idea for three Conservatives to join the cabinet and still remain members of the Conservative Party.

“There was bound to come a time when the mayor wants them to take one line and the party another. I’m frankly surprised it has gone so long without this happening.”

Cabinet posts are some of the highest paid positions on the council, with the deputy mayor entitled to an allowance of £31,791, and other cabinet members entitled to £12,791, according to figures published on the council’s website.