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Second Crawley Councillor resigns from Labour party giving town Conservative majority

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Bewbush & North Broadfield Councillor Rory Fiveash has made the dramatic decision to leave the Labour party.

The decision now means the council is now run by a minority party with only 16 Labour Councillors to the Conservatives 17 and 2 Independents.

In a resignation letter set by Cllr Fiveash he says that his decision was based around an investigation launched around emails he had sent and the subsequent ‘gossip’ that he says has circulated resulting in numerous stories being spun about the nature of the investigation.

Cllr Fiveash goes on to say that he had written to the Party HQ to tell them of his intention to resign if the matter was not cleared up.

Councillor Rory Fiveash

The full resignation statement reads:

Statement regarding resignation from the Labour Party;

“I was placed under ‘investigation’ by the Labour Party in March 2019 just a few days before the deadline for submitting candidate papers to the Local Authority. The CLP Executive met to decide what to do about this and voted by email to withdraw my candidacy. I appealed to the Regional Board and my appeal was upheld because the regional directors judged the decision to be wrong. At the same time they noted that another candidate had been allowed though even though they were under investigation over matters involving party finance. I was subsequently elected to the Council in May 2019 but remain to this day under ‘investigation’.

I cannot publish the Notification of Investigation or evidence as this would reveal details of individuals and be in breach of data protection regulations, but my resignation from the Labour Party means that I am now free to discuss it.

The Notification of Investigation informed me that the ‘charges’ against me related to rule 2.1.8 of the party rule book (and relates to protected characteristics). I was asked to comment on three emails: one was to a colleague, in which I had made an ironic reference to ‘mansplaining.’ She was not the complainant and has since told Party HQ that she never wished for the communication to be used in this way. We have always had a good colleague relationship. Another was an email that I had written to a CLP officer following a communication to the press about a council matter in which he had not complied with specific guidance from the Labour Council Leader and had gone against general guidance given by me as the Labour Councillor’s Press Officer. While this email could be said to have expressed some anger at what had occurred, it was in no way abusive. The third was an email in which I had stated my concern about certain things that were wrong with the 2019 selection process that was ongoing at the time. Many individuals had expressed the same concerns  – which have been accepted since as valid – and this email was not directed at anyone personally and was not in any way abusive.

Although I did not understand how these emails related to the rule 2.1.8 I responded to the NOI and explained the context and background to the emails. I much later learned through a Subject Access Request that Party Officials had made enquiries of various CLP members and that the allegations had been deemed to be unsubstantiated. I have never been officially informed of this and, as I said, the ‘investigation’ is still ongoing.

I also learned in this way that some of the original allegations included undermining the leader and that these appear to have come from a close associate of the current council leader. There is no evidence of this and all the assessments of my activity as a councillor have been positive, I have also received a number of positive statements from my Councillor colleagues which contradict this allegation. In December 2019 I met with the leader discuss these matters, he has never raised a concern with me and committed to writing a statement of support for me. He has not done this.

Since then gossip has circulated about the investigation with many different stories being spun about the nature of it. This is the reality of the parties complaints system – investigations are launched and left to sit for years while good people have their names dragged through the mud locally.

After a year, I wrote to Party HQ telling them that, unless the matter was cleared up, I would resign from the Party. As a result of this Jennie Formby, the former general secretary, assured me that the team would be in touch either through a member of the team or the head of department, Patrick Smith, so I rescinded my resignation – that was three months ago now and I have heard nothing.

I believe that in my case, as in many others, the Party’s processes are being abused in order to control who is selected to fight council seats and to restrict individuals’ Party activity. A great amount of time, energy and stress have gone into trying to clear this matter up. I need that energy to work for the people I represent. They are among the most vulnerable in our Town and they always pay the highest price in a crisis. They need and deserve my full attention now. In order to give my best to them I have, with huge reluctance, decided to resign from the Labour Party.”

Rory Fiveash

This now places the towns council in a very unusual position, with a Labour leader running a minority party within the council.

Crawley Borough Council has been approached to clarify if this now has any implications with the ongoing running of the council up until the next election in May 21.

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Crawley vows to keep children fed as towns council looks to continue support over Christmas

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The extent of the backlash from Crawley residents to the recent voting down of a motion to keep school children fed over the half term has been both vocal and wide spread.

Their governments response appears to have completely missed the publics feeling at this disastrous time with a pandemic obliterating the life we all knew only months ago.

But Crawley has decided it will not just stand by and allow anyone to suffer.

Restaurants, charities and even social media groups across the town have pledged to do whatever they can to support children who are in need of support and who could possible go hungry without help.

Two examples of restaurants helping are The Master Fryer in Pound Hill and La Rusta in the town centre.

Master Fryer in Pound Hill is providing sausage and chips to every pupil in need.

The Master Fryer on Pound Hill Parade is one of the towns restaurants helping out.

They have pledged to feed very single school child in need next week with a sausage and chips. From Monday 26th and for the rest of the half term any school child who is in need of meal can turn up without fear or judgement to received their meal.

Owners Peter Huzzey & Barry Swan made the decision after hearing the motion had been voted down.

Peter Huzzey said:

“We saw that the government had voted down extending school meals, so we wanted to step up and do something about it.

I know a lot of people are struggling at the moment and we want to help out as much as we can and we are really pleased that we can do something, we just hope we don’t run out of sausages”

La Rusta packed Lunch

La Rusta in the town centre is providing packed lunches consisting of ham or cheese sandwich with fresh fruit and drink Monday 26th to Friday 30th October.

One of the towns well known social media pages, Spotted Crawley on facebook has already started a voucher scheme where followers can donate money for voucher cards allowing families to then be able to buy food.

Owner Dan said:

“After hearing of the vote on Wednesday, and the reaction which followed, it was clear that there would be a need out there this half term. The response to our appeal has been overwhelming and we’ve provided 64 vouchers to families so far. With the support of local businesses and the public of Crawley, no child will go hungry this half term”

But many more are also involved including charities and even individuals with one Crawley mum spending the whole weekend cooking and baking meals ready to hand them out next week.

And residents and businesses are reminded they can also donate to local groups such as The Easter Team, Open House and Giving Back Crawley, who run local foodbanks.

Official figures say that over 2,500 children across the town qualify for free school meals although it is thought the figure is now much higher now following jobs losses due to Covid-19.

But whilst the towns support is welcome there is an even larger problem only two months away, something the towns council leader wants to be able to do something about.

Crawley Council Leader Peter Lamb said that he and his colleagues had been working none-stop to try to solve the problem over half term, but with only a couple of days notice it was proving almost impossible.

Mr Lamb added that the show of support from the Crawley community was heart warming but that the council had to do more and promised they were ‘preparing to ensure no child goes hungry over Christmas’.

But Mr Lamb added that the money required to be able to do this just did not exist and that help from the community would be required to make it happen.

Mr Lamb said:

“The reality is that local authority finances have been decimated by COVID-19 and both local councils are having to make big cuts in order to keep running, meaning we will need the crowdfunding from the local community to help finance these meals and we hope to be able to use a pot of dedicated funding Crawley BC can access to provide a level of match-funding.

I would certainly hope that large local businesses who have recently made many local parents redundant might consider what support they can afford to provide.”

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