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Labour crisis deepens after five councillors leave to form new political group

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Labour have lost the deputy leadership of Stroud District Council after a further five councillors defected due to “interference from the national party”.

Deputy council leader Natalie Bennett (Nailsworth) along with councillors Mattie Ross (Stonehouse), Paula Baker (Stroud Uplands), Helen Fenton (Chalford) and Chris Brine (Stonehouse) have formed their own Independent Left political group.

A statement from the departing five, said: “It is with immense sadness that we have taken the decision to leave the Labour Party. We have thought long and hard before making this decision and we would like to thank our friends and
colleagues in the local Labour Party for the support they have shown us during this difficult time.

“We want to be able to hold the Tories to account and deliver the Council Plan, which is focused on benefiting our local communities and businesses, the local economy and the environment. Achieving the plan relies on maintaining the Cooperative Alliance that has successfully run SDC since 2012 and we are committed to this continuing. Sadly the National Labour Party has made this impossible for us to do while we remain members, therefore we have no alternative but to resign our party membership.

“The five of us have now formed a new “Independent Left” group of councillors on SDC and will remain in the administration. At the heart of our politics are values of equality and social justice and the wellbeing of our communities. We will continue to work with our alliance partners and remain focused on delivering positive change. We are committed to working for the residents of our wards and to ensuring support will be available locally for those that need it most during this cost of living crisis.”

Labour has gone from leading the local authority and having 15 councillors after last year’s elections to just six now. The Green Party took over the leadership of the Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat alliance-run council after former leader Doina Cornell (Dursley) stood down in July.

Responding to the news of the new Independent Left Group on Stroud District
Council, the Deputy Leader of the Green Group of councillors, Cllr Steve Hynd, said: “The Green Party has cooperation in its DNA. It’s who we are. It is what the last 10 years of successful cross-party working on the council has been based on.

“Throughout the recent changes within the Labour Group, we have consistently said that we will continue to work with any progressive party in the Stroud District. Our priority remains to achieve the actions in our council plan that will see our district work towards net-zero by 2030, support our communities with the cost-of-living crisis and will see new warm and safe council housing built for those that need it most. These are Green priorities.”
He continued: “I want to pay tribute both to the Independent Left councillors who have admirably stood up for their principles, and the Labour councillors who have been put between a rock and a hard place by their national party.

“The national Labour Party has insisted Labour councillors sit with the Tories in
opposition.
“This is both bizarre and a reflection of the lack of value that national Labour puts on local political cooperation for a more progressive politics.
“We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the Independent Left group, the Community Independents group and the Liberal Democrat group, leading the council for everyone in Stroud District.”

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