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Preston Labour reshuffle sees arts and culture cabinet member ‘brutally’ axed

Posted on - 15th May, 2024 - 9:45pm | Author - | Posted in - Arts, Politics, Preston Council, Preston News
Cllr Peter Kelly speaks at the 'We Saved The Ferret' party last week.
Cllr Peter Kelly speaks at the ‘We Saved The Ferret’ party on Friday last week. Credit: Michael Porter Photography

A long-serving Labour cabinet member at Preston City Council will be replaced in an announcement tomorrow.

Blog Preston understands that Cllr Peter Kelly, who has been serving as cabinet member for culture and leisure services in Preston for eight years, will be replaced by Cllr Anna Hindle.

It is not clear if Cllr Hindle will replace Cllr Kelly like-for-like or as part of a wider reshuffle. Hindle was re-elected in May’s local elections standing in Ribbleton ward.

Read more: Return of Fridays at Preston outdoor market key step for traders

Cllr Kelly has held the cabinet post since 2016 and was first-elected to the city council in 2014 representing Riversway and is currently a councillor for Garrison ward. Blog Preston understands he will continue to serve as a ward councillor.

When contacted by Blog Preston, councillor Kelly confirmed he would no longer be in post following the cabinet announcement and said he would be making a statement ‘in the coming weeks’.

Blog Preston contacted Cllr Matthew Brown, leader of Preston City Council, for comment. He said he would issue a statement with ‘the full team announcement’ tomorrow and declined to comment further.

Backdrop of recent local elections

The move from Preston’s ruling Labour group comes after the disappointment of the 2024 local elections which saw them fail to make gains on target Conservative seats, where the Liberal Democrats instead succeeded. The city’s Labour group also saw a high number of ‘NO CEASEFIRE NO VOTE’ spoiled ballots, in light of the Gaza conflict and the national party’s position on Gaza, in wards traditionally seen as Labour strongholds.

Labour also lost a seat for the first time in several years. The result in Lea and Larches saw cabinet member for health and wellbeing – and current acting Lancashire Labour leader – Jennifer Mein lose her seat by just 13 votes after a recount.

Cllr Kelly, centre, pictured at the ‘We Saved The Ferret’ party on Friday. Preston Labour colleagues, including leader Matthew Brown, are pictured far left Pic: Michael Porter Photography

Read more: ‘Monumental moment’ for iconic Preston music venue The Ferret as future secured

Political reaction to the cabinet shuffle

Cllr John Potter, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Preston who became the official opposition party in the May elections, told Blog Preston the move was ‘brutal and thoroughly undeserved’.

He said: “In my opinion, Peter was one of the most competent, considered and adaptable cabinet members to appear at scrutiny over the years I’ve been on the council.”

“For Labour to throw him out makes little sense to me. I can only assume they wanted someone who better fits their far left ideology rather than is actually good at their brief.”

Reaction from the city’s events community

Mark Whittle, Preston Business Improvement District manager who put on many events in the city, said: “Peter was a very active and visible cabinet member, known to many businesses within the leisure and hospitality sector.

“I am sure that they would wish to thank him for his engagement and support. We wish Peter well and look forward to working with Cllr Hindle as she takes over that portfolio.”

Arts and culture brief

Cllr Kelly has been at the forefront of the activity to see the Harris Museum renovated, as well as being a key champion in the campaign to save music venue The Ferret and also has the future of the Guild Hall within his portfolio.

During a briefing on arts and culture and tour of the Harris on Friday 12 May with Blog Preston, Cllr Kelly was asked about the budget position for the Harris – to which he said it was progressing well. This echoed a position given by the city council when it was confirmed last Autumn that the opening date was going back to Spring 2025 – but without any increase in costs against its restoration project budget.

It’s understood a report at the city council meeting on Thursday (16 May) – which is restricted from press and public access – entitled ‘Re-imagining the Harris “Harris Your Place” Cost and Programme’ – will update councillors on the Harris project. The document is restricted due to “information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information)” – despite the Harris being a public building and the restoration primarily funded through lottery grants and public funds.

A spokesperson for Preston City Council said: “The Harris Reimagining project continues to make good progress and a report has been presented to May Council on the current programme position which remains on track for a spring 2025 opening to the public.

“The report contains some sensitive commercial information and so therefore cannot be released into the public domain at this time.”

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