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Chief whip: It was me on the phone

April 9, 2010 4:00 PM
In Royal Borough Observer On-line

CHIEF whip Phillip Bicknell was the man at the other end of a secretly taped telephone conversation which led to a high-profile resignation from the Royal Borough.

Cllr Bicknell admitted on Wednesday when confronted with phone records obtained under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, he was the councillor talking to former political adviser Andre Walker.

Mr Walker was forced to resign last month after he was secretly recorded on a late night train apparently planning to oust the borough's deputy leader Cllr Alison Knight.

It was subsequently posted on You Tube with a transcript by an outraged passenger who called himself 'Robert Bobbin'.

Now leader of the Lib Dems, Cllr Simon Werner, who made the FoI request is calling for the resignation of Cllr Bicknell from the cabinet where he is also the lead member for public protection.

Cllr Bicknell has shrugged off calls for him to quit. He said: "I am not prepared to discuss any part of a private conversation. I am the chief whip and I listen to lots of conversations, it is part of my job, which I do very well."

In the taped conversation Mr Walker, employed by the council as a political aid to the Tory group, said: 'In May there's going to be a one to one where all the councillors are going to talk to the leader, we need to put the word round amongst our friends that she should be removed as deputy leader ...

l 'Well alright, listen, don't move yourself because as it stands you will be solid for years, right, just give it to someone like Dudley or someone.

l 'Alright so the word goes out that Phil's brilliant in his job but I think people love you, anyway you're very popular.'

Cllr Werner said: "Cllr Bicknell should resign his position from the cabinet. If he does not [council leader] David Burbage needs to sack him.

"We cannot have the Royal Borough run by a group of people at war with itself. The borough is facing tough times over the next few years, we need a united party in charge."

Cllr Alison Knight said this week: "I just want to put it all behind me and move on. I just want to get on with doing a good job. There are no disputes among the cabinet, we are getting on just fine and concentrating on the job."

Cllr Burbage was not available to comment despite numerous attempts to contact him.