11:54AM, Wednesday 24 November 2021
Labour councillor James Swindlehurst has been re-elected as leader of Slough Borough Council despite calls for him to step down over the local authority’s dire finances.
Slough is in financial turmoil with the council needing to sell £600 million worth of assets to help pay off its high levels of borrowing which have risen to £760 million.
Government appointed commissioners are now being drafted in to oversee the local authority’s recovery from its financial crisis.
Councillor Swindlehurst has led the Labour-run authority since November 2017 and his four-year term is due to expire on November 28.
His colleague, Labour councillor Pavitar Mann (Lab, Britwell and Northborough) told a full council meeting last night that Cllr Swindlehurst was the right man to ‘steady the ship’.
She said: “Political stability is key, vital in fact, particularly as we look to focus all of our efforts on the recovery. Now is not the time to naval gaze and look in the rear view mirror, but instead ensure that every effort is made to steady the ship and repair the council finances.”
Councillor Wayne Strutton, leader of the opposition, Slough Conservatives, responded: “It’s clear that your Labour group have forgiven you leader, but I doubt all Slough residents will. I won’t because I know the harm this will do to the most vulnerable in Slough.
“All I can hope for is that God may forgive you for this huge financial situation we find ourselves in.”
Councillor Swindlehurst told the meeting he had offered his resignation to the Labour Group in response to the council’s financial woes but this had been unanimously rejected.
He added: “The Labour group is full of comrades. It’s not a word I trade around, I didn’t join the Labour Party at a time when that word was fashionable.
“But comrades is exactly what we are. You don’t have to be best friends with each other, but we are together in a common cause working every day for the political values we hold, to defend the principles we value and to do our best for the most vulnerable people in Slough.”
Cllr Swindlehurst's new term will run until May 2023.