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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 Council Leader agrees to meet with opposition party to resolve towns leadership situation

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The leader of Crawley Borough Council, Peter Lamb, has agreed to meet with the towns opposition party, the Conservatives after an invite was extended in response the Mr Lambs call for a motion of no confidence.

In what has been a very tense time across the town politically for the past week, with two Councillors leaving the Labour party resulting in the party have a minority council, another step forward has been made for the council to come to an agreement of how it will continue for the rest of the year.

In a letter replying to Conservative Leader Duncan Crow, Peter Lamb says:

“We belong to different parties of very different beliefs, beliefs which in any ordinary circumstances would make joint-working impossible… However, current circumstances are far from ordinary…Recent events mean that no such majority exists.

We owe it to the town to resolve the current impasse. Consequently the Labour Group has asked that I take up your offer of talks to see what, if any, agreement can be reached.”

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