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Former Redcar Labour councillors call on Ed Miliband to launch investigation

Former Labour councillors today called on Ed Miliband to investigate after a bitter row in the Redcar party led to the departure of a number of high-profile members.

Former Redcar and Cleveland Council leader George Dunning headed a demonstration in Redcar asking for a full investigation into the party’s “flawed selection process”.

The call came ahead of the Labour leader’s question and answer session at Redcar and Cleveland College.

Mr Dunning’s deselection followed those of Redcar and Cleveland Council cabinet members Steve Goldswain (Eston) and Norman Pickthall (Teesville), the chair of Cleveland Fire Authority, Cllr Brian Briggs (Skelton) and Cllr Olywn Peters (Eston).

The deselections meant Mr Dunning and his colleagues could not stand for Labour in May’s elections and followed claims of bullying and harassment in the local party.

Mr Dunning, who has since quit the party, said:

“I was and still am the longest serving leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council.

“But I was deselected due to the influence of a group within the party who have never been voted for by the public.

“Everybody knows the selection process is flawed from start to finish.

“I’m absolutely appalled by the Labour Party. I’m nearly 65 and this is the first time ever I will not be voting for Labour. It is not a democratic party anymore and it no longer represents the working class.

“I’ve asked the question, will Ed Miliband carry out a full investigation into Labour Party North’s deeply flawed selection process?”

The deselections have seen Labour lose control of Redcar & Cleveland Council.

> Which seems a weird thing to do just before elections….

The upheaval in the Redcar and Cleveland Labour group follows a similar row in the Middlesbrough party last year.

Five councillors were deselected following interviews, and although Cllr Derek Loughborough won an appeal against the decision, he quit the party along with Cllrs Len Junier, Pervaz Khan, Sajaad Khan and John McPartland.

In a statement issued at the time of the deselections, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop and Anna Turley, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Redcar, said it was “time for change”.

Leader George Dunning and deputy leader Sheelagh Clarke have served Redcar and Cleveland with great commitment and have a lot to be proud of,” the statement said.

“However, local Labour Party members have today voted to replace them with other candidates for the ward of Teesville. We have a wealth of talent in the Labour Party and the bar has been set very high this year.

“The people of Redcar and Cleveland deserve the very best representation that the Labour party has to offer in the local community and members have chosen some fantastic local candidates. It is time for change. We are building a fresh, exciting and committed new team.”

The statement was released in the names of Mr Blenkinsop, Ms Turley and John McCormick, chair of Redcar and Cleveland Local Campaign Forum, Neil Bendelow, chair of the Redcar Constituency Labour Party and Bill Suthers, chair of Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour Party.

Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 06 Mar 2015

Redcar and Cleveland Council deputy mayor is latest to resign from Labour party

The deputy mayor of Redcar and Cleveland Council is the latest to resign from the Labour party after a week of turmoil at the authority.

Ten Labour councillors resigned their membership last week after council leader George Dunning, deputy Sheelagh Clarke and members of the authority’s cabinet were told by Labour that they had not been selected to stand again for their party in May’s elections.

Now Doreen Rudland, who represents the Brotton ward, has confirmed she is the 11th current councillor to leave the party.

She said: “I think it is disgraceful what has happened to those councillors who were deselected by the party.

“Ten councillors resigned last week – and I am supporting them.”

Cllr Rudland, 77, is the authority’s deputy mayor and was elected at a by-election in Brotton more than four years ago.

She confirmed  that she was not planning on standing in the May elections.

“I had already taken that decision, I did not want to stand because of my age.

“I have enjoyed being a councillor, and I have particularly enjoyed my time as deputy mayor.”

On Sunday, the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Constituency Labour Party selected its candidates to stand in May’s election.

Current Labour cabinet members Joan Guy and Helen McLuckie were selected to stand again in their Saltburn and Skelton wards, the local party confirmed.

The ten councillors who resigned from the party at a protest outside Milbank Terrace office of Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley last week were: George Dunning (Teesville), Sheelagh Clarke (Teesville) Steve Goldswain (Eston), Olwyn Peters (Eston), Norman Pickthall (Teesville), Mark Hannon (Kirkleatham), Vic Jeffries (Marske), Brian Briggs (Skelton), Carole Simms (Normanby) and Wendy Wall (Normanby).

A vote of no confidence in leader George Dunning has been tabled by the council’s Liberal Democrat group for Thursday’s meeting of the full council.

In the wake of the row, Councillors Steve Goldswain and Olwyn Peters spoke out about alleged bullying in the local party, while the chairman of the Redcar constituency party Neil Bendelow confirmed that Cllr Vic Jeffries had made a formal complaint about bullying.

Cllr Dunning said that the resignations came after a long-running internal dispute in the Labour Party between council leadership, and the offices of Ms Turley and Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop.

After Councillors Dunning, Clarke, Hannon and Jeffries joined Steve Goldswain, Brian Briggs and Norman Pickthall in being deselcted by the party, Mr Blenkinsop said that “he wasn’t part of the selection process”.

Ms Turley said in a statement:

“I am sad that the councillors and members who didn’t get selected don’t feel they can continue to be part of the Labour movement without being paid councillors, but the party cannot be held to ransom.

“There were simply other candidates who won their elections and they deserve their opportunity to serve their local communities.”

In response to Mrs Rudland’s announcement, Labour repeated its statement made in the wake of the other resignations that it was “disappointing but unsurprising”.

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 09 Feb 2015

Redcar : Council leader tears up Labour Party membership card as bitter internal dispute continues

The future of a Teesside council has been left in disarray after its Labour leader and other cabinet members resigned from the party.

Redcar and Cleveland Council leader George Dunning, his deputy Sheelagh Clarke, the mayor, cabinet members and other senior councillors resigned this morning.

The move is the latest development in a bitter internal Labour dispute and comes after the councillors were not selected by the party in their seats in May’s council elections.

Ten councillors – including more than half of those on the council’s cabinet – staged a public protest outside the Redcar office of Anna Turley, Labour’s candidate for the Redcar seat in the General Election.

An informal meeting is taking place today in which the group will speak to cabinet members still in the Labour Party, and also approach independents to debate how the council can continue to function.

The most pressing issue is the need to pass a budget before the end of March, which includes a vital decision on whether to raise council tax.

But the Liberal Democrat group on Redcar and Cleveland Council have now confirmed that they will table a motion at next Thursday’s full council meeting calling for Cllr Dunning to stand down as leader.

Speaking at the protest in Redcar, Cllr Dunning said Redcar and Cleveland residents have “nothing to worry about”.

Cllr Norman Pickthall, cabinet member for corporate resources, said: “The direction of travel is that we will agree the budget, with a 0% council tax rise.

“All the work has been done. Other councillors would be foolish to reject it.”

Asked if he thought Labour would again win control of the council in May, Cllr Pickthall said: “I don’t think so. Not if the councillor who wants to become leader succeeds.”

Cllr Dunning said that South Bank councillor Sue Jeffrey wanted to become leader of the council’s Labour group.

The ten councillors who resigned from the party were Steve Goldswain (Eston), Olwyn Peters (Eston), Norman Pickthall (Teesville), Mark Hannon (Kirkleatham), Vic Jeffries (Marske), Brian Briggs (Skelton), Carole Simms (Normanby) and Wendy Wall (Normanby).

Their total membership in the party spans 230 years.

Cllrs Goldswain, Briggs and Pickthall were deselected as Labour councillors in November.

Cllrs Dunning, Clarke, Hannon and Jeffries were deselected at a meeting on Sunday, the culmination of a rift the council leader says exists between the leadership and Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Anna Turley, and councillors Joe Keenan and Dale Quigley, who work in Mr Blenkinsop’s office.

Mr Blenkinsop said earlier this week that “he wasn’t part of the selection process”.

Ms Turley said in a statement today:

“I am sad that the councillors and members who didn’t get selected don’t feel they can continue to be part of the Labour movement without being paid councillors, but the party cannot be held to ransom.

“There were simply other candidates who won their elections and they deserve their opportunity to serve their local communities.”

Ms Turley was out campaigning when the councillors staged their protest at her Milbank Terrace office.

A Labour Party statement said the decision was “disappointing but unsurprising”.

It read:

“The selection process in Redcar &; Cleveland has been fair, robust and competitive. The Labour Party expects the highest standards from our councillors and council candidates. These expectations include that a candidate demonstrates a willingness to campaign in their community all year round.

“The selection process is still ongoing but local members have begun to choose a new team of candidates drawn from a wide range of backgrounds, including a postman, a steel worker, a cobbler, a barmaid, and a netball coach.”

Cllr Sheelagh Clarke has now called for an independent inquiry into allegations of bullying, and the selection process which saw senior Labour members rejected by their party.

Cllr Peters said she had suffered a nervous breakdown because of bullying – and that she supported the deselected councillors who she said “represented what Labour is all about”.

Cllr Goldswain has also complained about bullying.

Chair of the Redcar Constituency Labour Party, Neil Bendelow,  claimed  earlier this week that there had been “no complaints” about bullying.

However, Cllr Vic Jeffries said he had made an official complaint around three weeks ago – which had been acknowledged.

Mr Bendelow said: “We had no complaints from those councillors who have spoken about the issue in the press. But we have had a complaint from Cllr Jeffries – the first I have ever had to deal with – and it will be dealt with by Labour Party process.”

Speaking after ripping up his 30-year Labour Party membership this morning, former mayor Cllr Jeffries said: “It is a very, very sad day.

“I am weighing my options up. I am a socialist and I believe in fairness, transparency and truth.”

Cllr Brian Briggs said: “I used to help my father with party business when I was a boy. I am Labour through and through. It is with a very heavy heart that I resign my membership.”

Independent mayoral candidate for Middlesbrough Len Junier, and fellow Middlesbrough councillors Pervaz Khan, John McPartland and Derek Loughborough supported their Redcar and Cleveland counterparts at the protest.

All but Cllr Loughborough were deselected by Middlesbrough Labour Group last year.

Cllr Junier said: “I think that this shows that party politics on Teesside is in terminal decline.

“It is the rise of the Independents. I hope we see a repeat across Teesside.”

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 04 Feb 2015