Neil Blake resigns as Aylesbury Vale District Council leader

AVDC leader Neil Blake
AVDC leader Neil Blake

Aylesbury Vale District Council leader Neil Blake has announced his resignation this afternoon (Thursday).

The move comes just two days after his wife Janet resigned as cabinet member for commercialisation and business transformation from Aylesbury Vale District Council after the failure of the AV Broadband scheme and a conflict of interest row - but both remain as councillors.

Cllr Neil Blake of Aylesbury Vale District Council ENGPNL00120140602140454

Cllr Neil Blake of Aylesbury Vale District Council ENGPNL00120140602140454

A statement from the council read: “Councillor Neil Blake has today resigned as Leader of Aylesbury Vale District Council. In accordance with the council’s constitution the deputy leader, councillor Angela Macpherson, will discharge the functions of the leader until such time as a new leader is elected by council.”

Janet Blake - who an investigation by The Bucks Herald reveled - had voted on planning applications for a developer she had invested in - resigned from her cabinet member for comercialisation and business transformation role on Tuesday evening - something this paper has long called for.

She had championed and been a board member on AV Broadband - a failed council venture which an independent report found had suffered from poor management, a lack of research and a lack of transparency.

Mrs Blake said: “I have always worked hard in my role as AVDC cabinet member.

“I’m proud of what I’ve achieved and my resignation is not connected to that work.

“However the relentless and personal campaign against me has made my position untenable and I have reluctantly chosen to step aside to protect the wider interests of the council.

“I wish my successor and all the fantastic council staff the very best as AVDC continues its transformation journey.”

Mr Blake also sat on the board of the venture - but the report said that he was asked to step down from that role, because it constituted a conflict of interest in his role as council leader.

Both Blakes stepped down ahead of an extraordinary council meeting on Thursday night - in which opposition members were due to call for resignations, and lodge a motion of no confidence.

Winslow councillor Llew Monger - who has long expressed his concerns over the broadband scheme and the Blake’s leadership, said: “It was the right and proper thing for them both to go - a double whammy.

“He’s the jumped the gun as she did and resigned before the meeting.

“The meeting will go on as planned and we are saying that as a council it is essential that we have a fully forensic investigation into the accounts and that the council recognises that the whole escapade was an unmitigated failure.

“They should now both do the honourable thing and resign as councillors too.”

Labour district councillor for Buckingham South, Robin Stuchbury said: “I wish Neil well and hope he gets some personal relief from the difficulties he has experienced recently.”

And interim leader Angela Macpherson added: “It’s important to recognise the progress that AVDC made under Neil’s leadership. We are in the enviable position of having a balanced budget for the next four years. We’ve digitised services, found efficiency savings and led the way on innovations like the use of artificial intelligence, our connected knowledge strategy, the culture change project and of course the Vale Lottery. The success of these initiatives is undeniable, evidenced by the fact that councils from around the country continue to be willing to pay us consultancy fees to learn from our experiences.”