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Ex-Labour councillor joins Green Party

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The Green group on Stroud District Council has welcomed Cllr Helen Fenton who joins from Labour.

Helen was elected in 2021 as one of 15 Labour councillors, but has been part of an independent group since September 2022.

The defection means that the Green Party now has 14 seats on Stroud District Council and will continue to lead the administration, as the largest party in the cooperative alliance with the Independent Left, Community Independents and Liberal Democrats groups.

Labour now has only four councillors on the council after interference by the national and regional Labour Party, its decision to block Cllr Doina Cornell from standing as Labour’s MP candidate, and political disagreements with Keir Starmer.

From 2012 to 2022, the Greens, Labour and Liberal Democrats had worked together to run Stroud District Council. Helen said that she had no option but to leave Labour in 2022, when the Labour councillors were ordered by the Labour Party to stop working with the Greens, which risked letting the Conservatives take control of the council. Only six Labour councillors followed the orders, and another two have since quit the Labour Party. 

Helen said: “In the 2021 council elections, the Labour Party councillors were elected to continue working in the successful cooperative alliance alongside the Greens and Lib Dems that had led the council for a decade. Just over a year later, Keir Starmer’s Labour Party demanded that Stroud’s Labour councillors stop working with the Greens or face disciplinary action. The Labour Party didn’t care about our communities, or that this was likely to hand over control to the Conservatives; they just wanted to stop the Greens from leading the council. I had no option but to leave the Labour Party to do what was right for the people who elected me.” 

Helen will continue in her current role as Vice-chair of the Development Control Committee, working alongside the Chair, Martin Baxendale, who is also from the Greens. Helen’s switch to the Greens means that all three district councillors in Chalford ward are now Green, as is Cllr Chloe Turner, whose Gloucestershire County Council ward includes Chalford. Helen will stand for the Greens in the local election on Thursday May 2.

Cllr Catherine Braun, Leader of Stroud District Council and Leader of the Green group of councillors, said: “We are delighted to have Helen join our group. She is an active and involved ward councillor who is committed to the Green Party ethos of care for social and environmental justice. Helen joins the Greens at such an important time, with the Greens being the best option to stop the Tories from taking over the council in May’s elections.

“The Greens, with 14 councillors already, have a very good chance of becoming the largest group on the council in May; feedback from talking to residents on the doorstep tells us that we are likely to take votes from traditional Conservative voters who are disillusioned with the way the Conservative Party nationally has abandoned any pretence of environmental protection and social justice. We are also likely to take votes from Labour voters who understand that the collapse of the Labour group makes it unlikely that Labour can recover its position as a political force in Stroud.”

Helen works as a psychotherapist and counsellor and is a life-long socialist, feminist and environmentalist. As a student, Helen was a Green Party member and was the first Green to be elected to the national executive committee of the National Union of Students. 

Helen said: “As a Green Party councillor I will be guided by the party’s core values: integrity, compassion, connection, and creating greener, fairer communities. I will work towards improving health and quality of life, reducing the impact of inequalities, encouraging community engagement, supporting the most vulnerable and – of course – protecting the natural environment.”

Outside politics, Helen’s interests include cycling and dancing Argentine Tango. She co-founded the women’s cycling network Stroud Spinderellas and created the group Tango In Chalford, which offers social dance classes in the village.

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