The leader of Cheshire East Council has attacked infighting in his own party and said this is the reason he has resigned and it has nothing to do with the awarding of contracts to his personal physiotherapist.
At a press conference called today (Wednesday, December 9) Cllr Michael Jones also denied having a personal relationship with the physiotherapist whose company was awarded fitness contracts worth more than £150,000.
When asked specifically about his relationship with Amanda Morris, the physio who runs Core Fit, the council leader said: “I’m very, very fond of anybody who makes me lose six and half stone. She’s been a fantastic trainer and we’re now looking after my wellbeing because obviously I’ve come off medicine and she’s helped me there too. So I would say we have a close relationship. She is awesome... she is the best physio, great trainer and worked with me to look like this and I am very humble.”
When asked if she was his partner Cllr Jones said : “Absolutely not.”
As revealed by the Chronicle last night Cllr Michael Jones is to stand down as Conservative party leader and council leader in January - although he will remain as a councillor for the Bunbury ward.
Speaking from Cheshire East’s HQ at Westfields, Cllr Jones launched an attack on ‘disaffected constituency chairs’ in the Conservative Party. He said he has resigned because the knives were out for him.
“I have said many times I would not resign. One shouldn’t resign when you’ve done nothing wrong.
“The only thing that ever overrides that is the blue on blue party issue. I will not support a blue on blue attack in my party. So I will not be leader of a party or a group that is blue on blue.”
He insisted he was not worried about ‘knives in the back’.
“I’m worried about unity in the party. I have the votes to withstand that but it’s not going to be right for my party to have disaffected constituency chairs writing. One guy said I’ve not seen the evidence but then condemned. There is no evidence.”
Cllr Jones again denied any wrongdoing with regard to the awarding of the Core Fit contracts and allegations of bullying.
He said he was a passionate man and shouted at staff sometimes to get things done for residents and ‘maybe that had been interpreted by some as bullying’.
Accusations of bullying
He was answering questions from the Chronicle about allegations he bullied council staff - allegations which were made by Mayor Hilda Gaddum in the Knutsford Guardian.
Cllr Jones said: “I’m the leader of a strong council. Because I’m a strong leader it gets interpreted to be bullying. I’m a commercial guy. I believe we should give value for money to all our residents. I believe we should get the best jobs for them. I am passionate about delivery.”
He continued: “[There has not been] one complaint ever in standards against me for bullying ...so when you look at it, what you call bullying and they call bullying I think is a misinterpretation for passion, drive. And when the leader of the opposition says to me ‘I would never call you a bully Michael’ I think the words matter by people like that.
“It’s easy to label things as bullying because I’m decisive about change,”
He described the allegations as a ‘cheap shot’.
“It’s a very simple game of saying, look he’s a bully because he gets it right. Of course I’m strong - and do I shout as people? Yes,” said the council leader. “If the residents of Cheshire East aren’t getting the best things done I react to that strongly. I demand they get the best.”
He added: “I think people should be shouted at if they’re getting paid £100,000 and aren’t delivering. They are in Cheshire East, thankfully.
“I think people who are earning £50,000 and getting 23% paid into their pension should also be shouted at if they’re not delivering for the people.
"When it’s people’s lives being affected I’m sorry, I’m a leader who’s passionate.”
Cllr Jones said his temper had also been affected by medication he had been taking.
“I’ve been taking very strong medication, that has not been helping my temper and I’ve stopped doing that in the last three months at detriment to my health,” he said. “That has shown already that my temper has improved. Maybe I should have declared that too. I don’t know.”