Former Sandwell Council leader quits 'disgraceful' Labour Party which 'lacks all moral authority'
Council in turmoil once again.
A former leader of Sandwell Council has quit Labour, claiming the party was attempting to "bury the truth about wrongdoing" at the authority.
In a resignation statement Councillor Yvonne Davies said the party "no longer embodies the values of fairness and justice that made me join and serve it almost 40 years ago".
She said has "heard nothing" from the party since she was suspended nine months ago over "fabricated" allegations of anti-Semitism.
The Langley councillor claimed she had been targeted by national party members who were "conniving with local vested interests" to stop her from exposing serious misconduct.
Councillor Davies has served on the council for 14 years. She quit as leader in July after Labour suspended her in relation to allegedly anti-Semitic tweets she posted in 2017 and 2018.
Since then she said senior Labour figures including Sir Keir Starmer and mayoral candidate Liam Byrne had not "lifted a finger" to help deal with the claims made against her despite her pleas for support.
Councillor Davies said: "The party has failed to protect a strong female leader who sought nothing more than to embody the best of Labour tradition in fighting for local, accountable, public services led by politicians embodying the best of public service values.
"It has acted disgracefully and dishonourably and lacks all moral authority – certainly in the West Midlands, and most particularly in Sandwell – to seek people’s trust and confidence."
Councillor Davies said Sandwell Council needed a "strong independent opposition" after next month's local elections, and that Labour's "absolute power" in the borough had "not served its people well."
She is the latest long-standing councillor to resign and launch a stinging attack on the Labour Party.
John Edwards, who is standing as an independent candidate in Greets Green and Lyng, said Sir Keir had "more in tune with the Tories than with traditional Labour" when he quit earlier this month.
And Tipton Green councillor Ian Jones, who is contesting Princes End as an independent, accused the Labour Party of "covering up wrongdoing" by getting rid of council whistleblowers.
They are among six councillors who were elected as Labour in 2016 but are standing against their old party on May 6.
A spokesman for West Midlands Labour said: “Our refreshed local team – with 17 women and 11 black, Asian and ethnic minority candidates – stands ready to open a new and positive chapter for Sandwell, while nationally Labour continues to fight the Conservatives over the return of Tory sleaze."
Yvonne Davies's resignation statement in full:
I have today resigned from the Labour Party, as it no longer embodies the values of fairness and justice that made me join and serve it almost 40 years ago. I do this with a very heavy heart having worked for the party all my adult life.
I was suspended from the party in July last year having served as the Leader of Sandwell Council from May 2019. My suspension was based on fabricated allegations of anti-semitism as a result of a cynical trawl that the party made of my twitter account from 2017 and 2018.
That people would go to such lengths to discredit me did not surprise me.
My leadership had been based on establishing a new moral framework for conduct of council business based on honesty, transparency and integrity.
At the same time, it had become clear that previous conduct of some elected members had fallen well short of expected standards in public life. There were, and still are, outstanding serious matters involving serious misconduct.
That people were prepared to go to any lengths to protect their own interests and to try and bury the truth was not a surprise.
However, I retained some belief that the party would at least engage with the allegations so that I could clear my name and get on with my work in Sandwell.
It’s now more than nine months since I was suspended and I have heard precisely nothing at all from the party regarding a fair hearing.
This is a party that stands on a platform of fairness, equality and social justice yet it cannot even deal fairly and justly with its own members.
It cannot even administer a bog-standard process that thousands of organisations manage routinely to deal with allegations against its own members.
Worse than that, the party nationally is conniving with local vested interests to freeze me out and to bury the truth about wrong-doing.
I have made many representations to senior figures, including the leader, the deputy leader and the current Mayoral candidate for the West Midlands Liam Byrne – who all know the reality of past wrongdoing in Sandwell – but no-one has lifted a finger to get the allegations against me dealt with.
The Party has failed to protect a strong female leader who sought nothing more than to embody the best of Labour tradition in fighting for local, accountable, public services led by politicians embodying the best of public service values.
It has acted disgracefully and dishonourably and lacks all moral authority – certainly in the West Midlands, and most particularly in Sandwell – to seek people’s trust confidence.
In Sandwell, an increasing number of people are starting to realise this. We have a so-called ‘local’ Labour candidates chosen by the Party nationally with no regard for actual local decision-making.
These include a candidate previously disgraced for misuse of a council phone. We have long-standing, loyal and more importantly very effective councillors, elbowed aside.
But Sandwell people do now have some choices. We have a refreshing number of candidates for the local elections on May 6 standing as Independents.
I would urge Sandwell voters to think long and hard about how they cast their vote this year. Labour has had absolute power in Sandwell for too long and has not served its people well.
It needs to be held to account by a strong independent opposition, so please support your independent candidate.
Labour will put the Labour Party first; Sandwell need councillors that put its people and their services first.