Labour should stop selecting 'spouses and relatives' to stand for council, opponent says

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021 2:03pm

By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter @CharGreenLDR

Tameside's Labour group should stop selecting their 'husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, mums and dads' to stand for election if they want the town hall to be 'more diverse', a Tory opponent has claimed.

A row broke out at a meeting of the full council after a Conservative Stalybridge South councillor was critical of the numbers of couples and relatives that were represented at the town hall.

An assessment by the Local Democracy Reporting Service has found that there are four pairs of couples, three siblings and two child and parent duos serving on Tameside council.

These include brothers and sister Coun Jim Fitzpatrick, Coun Betty Affleck and Coun Philip Fitzpatrick, who represent Hyde Godley and Hyde Newton wards respectively.

Coun Jim Fitzpatrick is also one of the council’s couples with Stalybridge North Coun Jan Jackson.

These also include St Peter’s ward Coun David McNally, and Coun Denise Ward who represents Denton North East.

Denton West Coun Michael Smith is married to Audenshaw councillor Teresa Smith, while husband and wife duo Ann Holland and Barrie Holland both serve as Droylsden West councillors.

Coun Stephen Homer was elected to represent Mossley in May 2018, joining his son Jack Homer on the council benches.

And Audenshaw Coun Oliver Ryan also sits alongside his mother, Laura Boyle, who was voted into a seat in Droylsden East ward in 2018.

Coun Liam Billington told the virtual meeting that if the council wanted to be more diverse, it should feature less political families.

“I wish you’d take a leaf out of your own book because if you wanted to increase diversity of your own group you’d stop selecting your husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, mums and dads,” he said.

“Even now a third of your group is related to each other and that’s only going to get even worse because Councillor Drennan has got his mother selected.”

Chair of council business Coun Joe Kitchen then interjected: “Can you stop personalising it please and you must also remember that every individual whose entitled to stand can do, it doesn’t matter who they’re related to or whether you agree with it or not.”

There are currently 50 Labour councillors, with 14 either related or married to each other – 28pc of all the party’s elected representatives in the borough.

Coun Ged Cooney, who chairs the democratic processes working group, added: “Everyone on this council stands here as an individual.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a brother, a sister, an auntie, an uncle, whatever, a doctor, a nurse, a brain surgeon or an IT consultant or whatever you are here as an individual.

“The public elects you as an individual and you don’t elect a Labour member or a Conservative member or a Lib Dem or a Green, you’re elected as an individual first, so it doesn’t matter whether you’re related or not.

“It’s not unusual – it may be in your party but it’s not in ours –  that actually you find that the household has the same sort of politics. That’s the reality.

“Everyone in this meeting has a right to be here as an individual and they do a decent and a bloody good job.”

Coun Bill Fairfoull added: “We actually need more diversity on this council and I’m very proud of what this Labour group has done to actually encourage diversity but we can always do more and we’ll strive to do that.”

The meeting was also told that the Conservative group would not be supporting the submission to the electoral review for Tameside being carried out by the Local Government Boundary Commission.

The council is proposing to keep the status quo with 19 wards and 57 councillors in the borough.

But the Tory group said they would be putting in their own submission proposing to reduce the number of councillors by a third.

“This means that there would be 43 councillors in total with the current population,” Coun Billington added.

“We have proposed smaller single and two member wards which would better serve individual towns and neighbourhoods. The current ward boundaries are confusing.

“We’ve also asked that all out elections every four years are considered instead of electing in thirds. This would save the taxpayer over £500,000 over the course of a four year period.”

But Denton South Coun George Newton said having less councillors would impact directly on residents.

“Fewer councillors would mean fewer ways for residents to raise grievances, fewer ways to report issues, fewer opportunities to be represented in this virtual chamber,” he said.

“It would be more difficult for residents in Tameside to be heard and represented.

“We need a greater diversity as councillor Billington has said, we need a greater diversity of representation.

“More women, more parents, more people of colour and more working members and more people that actually look like the people in Tameside.

“If we want that we have to have three members per ward.”

Coun Ryan added that all members ‘give up time to make sure we can serve our residents’.

“Anyone that’s met a councillor and worked with a councillor in Tameside knows they’re extremely hard working people and most people in terms of earnings have earned more in their working lives than they now do as councillors,” he said.

 

Main image:

Stalybridge South councillor Liam Billington. Photo: LDRS. 

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