Cheshire East Council leader rejects resignation call

Michael Jones Image copyright Cheshire East Council
Image caption Michael Jones said he was "clear" that he had "not misled council"

The leader of Cheshire East Council has rejected a call to resign over claims he "misled" councillors about contracts awarded to his physiotherapist's firm.

Hilda Gaddum, the mayor of Cheshire East, said her fellow Conservative Michael Jones's position had become "untenable".

The council waived its own financial rules three times when granting Core Fit Ltd contracts totalling £156,000.

Mr Jones said he was "clear" that he had "not misled council".

The fitness company runs classes in schools and is owned by Mr Jones's personal physiotherapist, Amanda Morris. Neither Ms Morris nor her company have commented on the claims.

Mr Jones has previously said he had publicly declared his interest in the firm, while a council spokesman said there had been no "unlawful expenditure or any breach of EU procurement rules".

However, Ms Gaddum said Mr Jones had "misled" councillors at a meeting in October, where he questioned why his link with the company was "being brought up", and had lobbied for it to receive help.

The BBC has seen a letter written by Mr Jones to local MP George Osborne - whose Tatton constituency is included within Cheshire East - in which work carried out by Ms Morris's company is praised.

Emails released following a BBC Freedom of Information Act request show Mr Jones helped Ms Morris write a positive assessment of how Core Fit had fulfilled one of the council's contracts.

Core Fit Ltd contracts

June 2014

  • Core Fit Ltd was awarded a £20,000 contract to "provide a pilot core fitness training programme" in primary schools. The rules were waived to "allow the activity to be piloted at short notice".

March 2015

  • Core Fit Ltd was awarded another contract, worth £115,000, to extend the 2014 pilot scheme. The rules were waived so a "full evaluation" could be carried out.
  • Core Fit Ltd was awarded a third contract, worth £21,000, for "mind health training" in schools as part of the pilot scheme. The rules were waived so a "comprehensive evaluation" could be carried out.

Ms Gaddum said she had written to Mr Jones asking for his resignation, which led to "a very, very difficult meeting with him".

In a statement, Mr Jones said he would "not be resigning but thank the mayor for recognising the many good things I have achieved".

"I am disappointed, given that I vigorously sponsored her mayoralty to my group, at the comments made. But that is Hilda for you."

The council has not responded to requests for a comment.

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