Ted Fry forced to quit as Tory leader on Plymouth City Council
THE leader of the Opposition on Plymouth City Council has been ousted after criticism of his leadership style.
Cllr Ted Fry was forced to quit on Monday night after a lengthy meeting. It is understood that he lost a vote of no confidence by a significant margin.
In an email to senior figures at the council, Cllr Fry said: "My colleagues have just voted me out of office."
It is understood he added that he was not guilty of any misconduct but that his leadership style "was not appreciated".
Former council leader Cllr Patrick Nicholson will hold the reins until a new leadership contest can be arranged, but told The Herald: "I have no intention of throwing my hat in the ring."
Cllr Fry has led the Opposition since May, when former council leader Vivien Pengelly became Lord Mayor of Plymouth.
His leadership has been tested by a number of issues including an allegation that Conservative group member, Councillor Martin Leaves, sent inappropriate messages to a student on Facebook. In August it was revealed the party had launched an investigation but it has still not declared the outcome.
Cllr Fry will remain as a councillor representing Compton ward.
In a statement issued yesterday, the Conservative group said: "At a meeting of the Conservative group at which councillors reviewed progress on returning a Conservative council, following a comprehensive discussion, Cllr Ted Fry tendered his resignation as Conservative group leader.
"Cllr Fry, who has represented the Compton ward since 1992, will continue to represent his Compton constituents and remain an influential member of the council."
Acting group leader Cllr Nicholson said: "Cllr Ted Fry has played an important role on the city council over a very long period of time, for which we record our thanks and appreciation.
"We look forward to his future contributions, albeit not as group leader.
"The Conservative group, with many talented members, will elect a new leader in the next few weeks. In the meantime, we will continue to scrutinise the Labour Party's decisions and stand up for the citizens of Plymouth."
The group's chief whip, Cllr Richard Ball (Compton), has also stood down. The chief whip is directly appointed by the leader and Cllr Nicholson said it was customary in these circumstances for the chief whip to resign.
Nominations for the next leadership contest are expected in about two weeks.
Cllr Fry came to the leadership pledging to be a team player. In the group election earlier this year he beat two rivals – Cllr Ian Bowyer (Eggbuckland), and Cllr Sam Leaves (Plympton St Mary).
He was chosen as deputy leader in 2006 and served as Cabinet member for planning and regeneration and economic growth under Cllr Pengelly from 2007 to 2011.
In May Cllr Fry told The Herald: "Cllr Pengelly was very much the personality. My approach will be more of a team."
The new group leader will have an uphill task to build support for the Conservatives ahead of next May's council elections.
A majority of the 19 seats up for grabs then are Labour strongholds, and several Tory-held seats are thought to be vulnerable.
Under Plymouth's four-yearly electoral system a third of council seats are elected each year, with a fourth year in which no elections are held.
Cllr Fry is among those who face re-election next May.
Cllr Bill Stevens, chair of the Labour group on the council, said: "The internal squabbles of the Conservative group and their navel-gazing need to be contrasted with the sensible hard work that the Labour group is getting on with day-to-day.
"I was first elected 17 years ago and in that time the Labour leadership has changed once, whereas we are shortly to go on to the fifth or sixth Conservative leader. I have lost count."