The very uncivil war between competing groups of Sandwell Labour councillors has heated up following the suspension of Cllr. Yvonne Davies from the Labour party and her consequent resignation as council leader.
Some who lost their council cabinet positions and pay when Davies became leader, and others desperately angling for plum posts of special responsibility and the cash that goes with these sinecures, are plotting to ensure that the next leader is from their camp. Only then can they hope to cash in.
Sandwell council leadership elections have, in recent years been extremely tight with one or two votes deciding the outcome. In these circumstances, it’s easy to control elections by rigging the electorate. A Labour councillor suspended by their party is unable to vote in the leadership election. The trick, and it can be a very dirty one, is to throw mud at a member of the opposing group to get them suspended.
It happened with Davies herself. The current quarry being hunted down is cabinet member Cllr. Joanne Hadley.
Hadley made herself unpopular with some by making a complaint against a fellow Labour councillor. Investigated, by the council monitoring officer, (the officer responsible for councillors' conduct) the main complaint was upheld in an interim report. When the monitoring officer refused to alter her conclusion, she was shown the door and given, at public expense, a golden handshake. The then leader Eling and his deputy Khatun sent e-mails exonerating the councillor complained about and a more compliant investigating officer dismissed the complaint. Result; a cover up of wrongdoing at the cost of council taxpayers.
Later, the national information commissioner found Hadley’s main complaint proved.
Now a tape recording concerning Hadley has found its way into the hands of the press. There are allegations that the history of the recording is murky. There have been suggestions that it may have been stolen and doctored. Our understanding is that Hadley has volunteered convincing explanations of the motives of some of those involved. Whether that will prevent her suspension is unclear.
As council elections approach, we can expect to see a repetition of 2019 with wholescale de-selections of sitting Labour councillors. All part of the local battle for control and made possible by continuing rifts and divisions in the Labour party nationally.
There are significant implications for Sandwell residents. Currently, no fewer than a dozen Labour councillors are facing complaints which the monitoring officer seems to be taking an inordinate amount of time to deal with. Both of the last two council leaders, though representing opposing factions, admitted to corruption within the council. Both have had their membership of the Labour party suspended. A very senior council officer is under investigation. Local Labour party ward organisations have been infiltrated by the hard left and unrepresentative minorities which have taken control. There is evidence of cover up attempts by councillors to protect allies and associates. The concerns of Sandwell residents are being ignored while Labour councillors fight among themselves. The Labour party in Sandwell has long since ceased to represent the interests of residents.