St Helens Council’s embattled leader Barrie Grunewald, who is recovering from a heart attack he suffered last year, says his impaired speech may have been a factor in the attempt to oust him from office.
Coun Grunewald spent several weeks in an induced coma after falling ill while on holiday but returned to his town hall job two months ago.
Earlier this week three senior Labour councillors stood against him at the party’s annual general meeting in a failed bid to remove him from office.
Two of those involved, councillors Andy Bowden and Richard McCauley, declined to say why they challenged Coun Grunewald when contacted by the Reporter.
However, Coun Grunewald has told the St Helens Reporter that his speech was “not great” after his heart attack in October last year and that that may have motivated the attempted coup.
“My speech is the only thing that not great, though that’s the only thing,” he said.
It was democracy that allowed them to put names forward but I was always clear I would winCouncil leader Barrie Grunewald
“People can say it was in my interest they stood against. Me and my doctors disagree.”
Coun Grunewald acted swiftly following the failed coup, sacking all three from his cabinet.
His new cabinet will be formally confirmed at next Wednesday’s full council meeting.
In an interview with the Reporter, Coun Grunewald was scathing about his political rivals’ motives but insists there had been no falling out.
He added: “All I say is, it’s a democratic system we live in and thank goodness for that.
“It was democracy that allowed them to put names forward but I was always clear I would win.
“It is also democracy to choose my cabinet as I see fit.
“I think they had seen me at my weakest and wanted to take over.
“There was no policy difference and we have not fallen out.
“Democracy took its course and I won.
Asked if he intended to continue serving as council leader, he added: “I’m well enough to be at council meetings. I’m back 100 per cent already.”
Coun McCauley has told the Reporter he accepted the council leader’s decision to fire him, while Coun Bowden declined to comment.