Angry Lib Dems quit after ‘bringing party into disrepute’
Lewis Clarke www.devonlive.com
Two Barnstaple town councillors have quit the Liberal Democrats after being accused of bringing the party into disrepute with a former mayor also leaving in solidarity. Councillor Val Monk and Councillor John Carter quit the party last year after not backing the Lib Dem’s choice of mayor, Councillor Louisa York. The town’s former mayor, Councillor Alan Rennles, has also quit the party in support of his colleagues. A former town councillor, Councillor Jane Wilsher, also resigned from the party but died shortly after being sent the letter.
In a letter sent to the three councillors, signed by North Devon Liberal Democrat chair Helen Walker and Barnstaple Town Council Liberal Democrat group leader Ian Roome it stated: “We understand that your actions at Monday’s meeting have placed you in breach of the BTC LD Group standing orders; that your actions might also constitute behaviour likely to ‘bring the party into disrepute’. We also advised that your Liberal Democrats party membership lapsed on November 4 2021, and your Group ‘tithe’ contributions remain outstanding.
“We, therefore, write to advise you that disciplinary procedures outlined in standing orders, a panel will convene shortly to review and investigate your actions and consider your position as a member of the Liberal Democrat town councillor group and your membership of North Devon Liberal Democrats.”
It added that the trio breached group standing orders by ‘disregarding the LD Group’s approved for nominee for the position of mayor, which was decided on February 24 following due process circulated to LD town council members on February 15’.
The letter continued: “At the full town council meeting, you accepted the nomination and second by Cllrs Monk and Wilsher of you to post of mayor, which placed you in direct conflict with the LD Group’s own, approved/selected nominee for this appointment.”
Cllr Monk, a councillor for 28 years, said she could not attend meetings due to being injured. “I was lying on my back, I had been to no meetings, I had no correspondence from the Liberal Democrat committee to say what was happening, and what they were doing regarding mayor choosing,” she said. “One night, I told John I had not been out for twelve months, so I wanted to go to the Barnstaple Town Council meeting, where they chose the mayor.
“Nobody bothered to tell me who they were putting up, so I nominated John. John was happy to go along with that, as was Alan, as they were a bit fed up with the Lib Dems, as am I.
“Jane Wilsher, who is no longer with us, God bless her, was suspended shortly before she passed away, but told them they were too late as she had already resigned from them and cancelled her standing order. What hurt me the most was getting this letter.
“The people of Barnstaple should know why we’ve been suspended because we haven’t got freedom of choice on the council.”
Cllr Rennles added: “Friday, May 13, was my Jubilee ball and the same date Val and John had this letter from the local Liberal Democrats. The letters were damning.
“When you go to mayor-making, the meeting is to define who will be the mayor. As mayor at the time, I know how many people did not vote for Cllr York, and it was not just the three. That’s why they had these letters, and they’re turning around and saying to these people, you’ve got to tow the party line.
“What was going on, I didn’t like, so I quit in October. There is now a ‘then and us’ scenario on the council. I find it upsetting that being the mayor for three years and dealing with this sort of thing, not liking it, and not being able to do anything about it because you’ve got to balance it with being the mayor. I’m not going to add up how many years we’ve been at it here; we’re not short of nearly 100 between us before Jane died.”
Cllr Carter said he could not attend the Liberal Democrats meeting where they selected the mayor before the Barnstaple Town Council meeting. He said: “They want to get rid of the old ones, the ones that know all about planning and finance, and they’ve got a lot of young ones on in the last election, and they sit there like stuffed dummies, who don’t ask questions or raise their hands or nothing. Some councillors I don’t ever see at meetings. When you’re on the council, you’re supposed to be there for the public, not for the party.”