South Ribble Council has suffered yet another political fall-out.
The borough’s Labour Group unanimously voted to suspend Leyland Councillor Claire Hamilton, meaning she will now sit as an independent.
Coun Hamilton said she feels victimised for whistleblowing over an investigation into council taxi licencing and child sexual exploitation. She admitted leaking a report and has been working with a national newspaper to “research a matter of grave public interest”, but says she is just doing her job.
Her claims have been strenously denied by Labour leader Coun Paul Foster, who said a number of complaints about conduct had been raised.
It is believed issues surround claims made by Coun Hamilton on Twitter, a phone call to a member of public critising Labour members, and a threatening text message.
Coun Foster said: “The allegations against Coun Hamilton are of a serious nature and as such a file is also being forwarded to the Regional Labour Party Director for further review. Coun Hamilton was provided with a detailed explanation of all the allegations along with the supporting evidence and was offered an opportunity to defend herself either in writing or at the meeting itself. She chose to do neither. Furthermore, we would make it absolutely clear that none of the allegations surround any alleged whistleblowing.”
Coun Hamilton said she is the “victim of smears”, the allegations are “bogus”, and she has been denied the chance to examine and contest them.
She said: “I implored the Chief Whip to postpone the meeting until I had been able to do so. He declined. The result is that the meeting that decided to suspend me behaved as a kangaroo court. It has left me feeling betrayed by colleagues I believed I could trust.”
She added: “Coun Foster says that “whistleblowing” is not the reason for the group’s decision. I invite him to say what is. Meanwhile, I can only urge the group to reconsider and ultimately reverse my suspension.”