Council leader facing no confidence vote in bid to oust him ahead of Sunderland local elections

Sunderland City Council faces being plunged into chaos just weeks before it goes to the polls after a challenge against leader Graeme Miller.

By James Harrison
Friday, 18th March 2022, 4:55 am
Leader of Sunderland City Council Cllr Graeme Miller at the Victoria Viaduct, Washington.
Leader of Sunderland City Council Cllr Graeme Miller at the Victoria Viaduct, Washington.

The latest round of local elections for England is scheduled for May 5, when the top boss of Wearside’s local authority will be on ballot papers in the Washington South ward.

But a no confidence motion tabled by the opposition Conservative group and due to be heard next week means he could already have been ousted from one of the North East’s biggest political hotseats by the time voters mark their choice.

Despite this, Cllr Miller, who has been in charge since 2018, remains bullish.

Councillor Antony Mullen, leader of the Conservative Group.

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“I’ve nothing at all to say [about the motion],” he replied when contacted by the Echo, “I’m absolutely confident about it.

“It’s just to allow the opposition councillors five minutes to have a go at me - it’s politics in its worst form.”

While Cllr Miller, who was first elected to the city council in 2006, could be deposed by a vote at the next meeting of the full local authority on Wednesday (March 23), the attempted coup is unlikely to succeed without at least some support from his own ruling Labour group.

The Tories’ 19 seats account for just a quarter of the council chamber, followed by the Liberal Democrats with 12 and a lone independent, compared to Labour’s majority of 43.

But Conservative opposition leader Antony Mullen believes there is still a chance to inflict a bloody nose before polling day, although he also admits rules limiting the length of time council meetings can last could also scupper his plans.

He said: “It will be about the Labour councillors who decide not to come to the meeting, that’s the way they could support the motion without getting themselves into trouble.

“This is the final opportunity for the critics of Graeme Miller within the Labour Party to get rid of him before the public does.

“In a sense it is the Labour Party indicating to the public whether they are Millerites or not.”

At the time of writing, the Lib Dems were yet to decide on their approach to the vote, but group leader Niall Hodson claimed he was “a bit bemused” by the move.

He added: “If they really want to get rid of him then the opportunity is open to everyone in May - what would we achieve by putting the council into turmoil for a few weeks?”

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