Sheffield Labour councillors quit to stand as independents
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The seven are Coun Fox, his wife Denise Fox, ex-deputy leader Julie Grocutt, Tony Damms, Dianne Hurst, former finance committee chair Bryan Lodge and Garry Weatherall.
They were already suspended from the Labour whip after voting to oppose the draft Local Plan because of their opposition to a travellers’ site for travelling showpeople on Eckington Way, near Crystal Peaks.
Coun Fox was forced out of the leader’s role in May when the central party put Sheffield Labour into special measures and sent a team in to direct the local election campaign. That happened in the wake of the tree-felling scandal and the subsequent Lowcock Report inquiry that was highly critical of the council.
The councillors’ statement points to both issues and says “the residents of the South East were not listened to” about the traveller site. The September council meeting to discuss the Local Plan, which sets out what types of developments can take place across the city, was lobbied by a large group of campaigners speaking against it.
Several people in the public gallery hurled angry accusations about the way the issue was dealt with. Their objections are also supported by Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts and LibDem councillors.
The joint statement signed by the seven councillors said: “It is with a heavy heart that the undersigned have taken the decision to formally resign the Labour whip and resign our membership of the Labour Party with immediate effect.
“It became apparent that differences of opinion and approach existed within the Sheffield Labour Party following the suspension of democracy at the time of the May local elections.
“Despite offers to meet collectively to attempt to resolve these differences, which were ignored, we remained loyal until September full council and the issues arising from the Local Plan.
“Despite assurances arising from the Lowcock Report that the council would engage in meaningful consultation with citizens, the residents of the South East were not listened to.
“As a result we will sit as a group of Independent councillors, to serve our constituents within our respective wards to ensure that their voices are heard.”