By Rachael Grealish
Copeland Labour Party has expressed outrage after two councillors said they were ‘sacked’ from the Mayor’s Executive team.
Councillors Michael McVeigh and Gwynneth Everett announced today they have been dismissed from the executive by Copeland’s mayor, Mike Starkie.
The leader of Copeland Labour Group, Mr McVeigh, expressed his disappointment at the mayor’s decision.
In a statement Cllr McVeigh said: “We have today been summarily dismissed from Copeland Borough Council’s Executive by the unelected Conservative Mayor, Mike Starkie.
“We were understandably disappointed by him joining the Conservatives, but we were willing to continue in partnership, for the benefit of the people of Copeland. However, I was informed this afternoon that Mr Starkie has sacked Cllr Gwyneth Everett and myself from his executive, ending the partnership agreement.”
Mr McVeigh accused the mayor of throwing ‘his toys out of the pram’ after the Copeland Labour Group lobbied for the mayor to hold a public meeting to explain his reasons for joining the Conservative Party.
“Basically he has thrown his toys out of the pram because we tried to push him to have a public meeting to explain his actions. He wanted to avoid accountability,” he continued, “He joined the Conservative Party, having been elected on a promise to put people before politics. In breaking that promise he changed everything – and yet for some reason he was not prepared to come to a council meeting and explain his decision in public.
“We are the biggest group, by far, but we did not ask for anything for ourselves – we wanted him to fight for more funding for local people and, when it is safe, to hold a by-election so that people could decide if they wanted a Conservative mayor. That might not have been until the middle of next year, and we were quite prepared to work in partnership and support him in the interim.
“For us, this was always about what is best for local people. We will press on with our calls for a public meeting, using the constitution of the Council, because the Mayor has not agreed to our request to come forward and hold the meeting willingly.
“He’s great at publicity and self-promotion, so why is he afraid of going back to the public for a vote?”
However, speaking to The Herdwick News, Mr Starkie has said he would have preferred to keep the councillors on the Executive, and feels they would have liked to continue in the same fashion, but feels the councillors are ‘pandering to the interventions of the disruptive element’ within the Copeland Labour Group.
He said: “I would have preferred to have kept Labour on the Exec and continued as we were because as far as I am concerned my policy agenda and ambitions for Copeland have not changed.
“The unfortunate thing is, in my view that is, what the two former executive members would have preferred but unfortunately they have to pander to the interventions of a disruptive element within the party which made their position untenable.
“By and large that is the Momentum influence that wrecked the Labour vote across the U.K. nowhere more than Cumbria where they no longer have a single MP and since 2015 have lost control of three of the four district councils they held in Cumbria.”
Mr Starkie sent a letter to the councillors, Mr McVeigh and Ms Everett, explaining his decision, during which he stated the correspondence between himself and the councillors ‘showed the councillors no longer wish to work in cooperation’ with him.
He also told The Herdwick News the reasons Mr McVeigh gave for his and Cllr Everett’s dismissal were a ‘complete fabrication’ and he welcomes a meeting.
“They are spinning that I am declining to have a meeting which as you can see is a complete fabrication, they have never asked me as you can see from below they have gone straight to the Chair of Council with a requisition and notified me afterwards,” he continued.
“I actually look forward to a meeting and Labour providing me with a public platform and exposing their lack of understanding of the facts.”
It was announced Mr Starkie joined the Conservative party in June, after representing Copeland as an independent mayor for five years.