Argument over claims town authority is being politicised
A political row has blown up between Fleetwood Town Council members in the run-up to the local elections on May 7.
Labour’s Coun Brian Stephenson has hit out over a leaflet produced by Coun Dave Shaw, which he says accuses the party of trying to take over the council for political gain.
Although the council was set up as a non-political body, with councillors acting independently of party political control, Coun Shaw says he has concerns Labour is targeting the authority by fielding a large number of candidates.
But Coun Stephenson refutes the claims and has also complained Coun Shaw’s leaflet has breached election rules by not including any details of who has published and printed it.
Coun Shaw is a Conservative, but is standing as an independent on the Town Council in the new ward of St Wulstan’s.
The first town councillors who stood for election under a political party were in fact Conservative members, four years ago
Coun Stephenson, who is contesting Park ward, said: “The first town councillors who stood for election under a political party were in fact Conservative members, four years ago.
“Then there was another Tory, two years ago. They were the first to do it, but I don’t recall anyone complaining about that.
“It is true we are putting up candidates in every ward, but there will be no Labour whip and all the Labour candidates, including myself, would act independently and according to the issues, not politically.
“The fact is, with our candidates, what you see is what you get. If you want to vote for a Labour candidate, you know who we are. Coun Shaw is a Conservative but doesn’t come out and say it.”
The leaflet does not criticise Coun Stephenson by name, but states: “There are now some councillors who had previously publicly spoke out against the Town Council, trying to take over the Town Council for political gain”,
However, Coun Dave Shaw stood by his leaflet and said there were genuine concerns of a political take-over, which would work against all the principals of the Town Council being independent.
He said: “I didn’t stand as a Conservative this time because I believe the Town Council should be independent. Brian Stephenson did criticise the Town Council before he joined it, and I do have concerns about a political take-over.”
Coun Shaw added he accepted he made a mistake by neglecting to put the print and publish details on his leaflet, thinking it was not needed if he was an independent and has told the returning officer he will not make this mistake again.
Coun Terry Rogers, chairman of the Town Council and also a Labour member who stands as an independent, said: “On my watch as chairman, politics is left at the door of the Town Council.
“There are some good candidates standing, but I have told them all that in this council, we are all independent when we take our seats.”
• Full details of all town council candidates can be found in next week’s Weekly News.