Party fall-out leads to election calls

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CALLS have come for a by-election after a councillor split from his Party’s county group.

Morpeth Stobhill member Ian Lindley has decided to sit as an independent Liberal Democrat on Northumberland County Council over concerns about the local group’s leadership.

The councillor, who has previously disagreed with colleagues on issues such as Morpeth’s Telford Bridge traffic lights, saw his majority cut from around 650 to 81 in this month’s elections.

And in a stinging email to Party members at the weekend he said he was leaving the county group, slamming it for avoiding having any policy aims, with no decision-making processes and domination by two or three individuals.

He said county Executive members had little meaningful input into decisions, with policies presented to them with little or no notice, that he was moved into four different portfolio posts in five years, and that he only joined the Party in 2006, but was responsible for writing the manifesto in 2008 and 2013, with no input from the leadership.

He said he had made desperate attempts to stop the ‘worst decisions’ going through and had sought to convince the group to put democratic processes in place.

And he suggested that the result of the Liberal Democrat leadership vote, which saw Jeff Reid beat off a challenge from Dougie Watkin, cemented his decision.

Coun Lindley told the Herald he was disappointed that his memo had been made public.

“I have no desire to derail the Party. The email was intended to explain to people and be clear why I was leaving the group,” he said.

“I have tried my best to sort it out from the inside and failed. I’m sick of the conflict and trying to put a positive face on the situation. I’m just going to concentrate on my job as a backbench councillor.

“I will be an independent Liberal Democrat. I’m still a member of the Party, but I have distanced myself from that particular group at the county.

“I’m there to represent the people and do my job. I will do my best for the people of Stobhill and the county.”

Liberal Democrat Group Leader Jeff Reid said: “I totally disagree with every reason Ian Lindley said he was leaving for, but fortunately it is a free country. People are entitled to do what they want.

“I’m terribly sorry that he felt this enmity towards me and I’m sorry that he felt he had to leave the group.

“You have to look at the context of the election and the disappointment that he only just got returned.

“I’m desperately sorry that it has turned out the way it has. He was always a strong member of the group.”

The Conservative and Labour groups say Coun Lindley should step down and force a by-election in Stobhill, particularly as his decision to break with the county Liberal Democrats comes so soon after the ballot earlier this month.

But both Coun Reid and Coun Lindley say it is not necessary as he is still a member of the Party.

Coun Lindley said: “I’m not breaking with the Party, I’m breaking with that particular leadership group. A councillor is quite entitled to follow his own conscience.”