Betrayal call as councillor leaves party

CALLS for a by-election are being sounded after a Liberal Democrat councillor jumped ship to go Independent.

Ex-Merchant Navy electrician Peter Maddison was elected only two months ago in Millfield as part of the city-wide Sunderland Council poll.

His Lib Dem colleague on the council Coun Paul Dixon said Coun Maddison had “betrayed” voters in Millfield.

“If he had any integrity or decency then he would have stood down as a councillor and put himself before the electorate as an Independent. He has betrayed the people who voted for him,” said Coun Dixon.

Coun Maddison, 48, who is studying history and politics at Sunderland University, hit back and said: “I think I can do a better job as an Independent representing the ward than as a Liberal Democrat and being part of their party machine.”

He said he had no intention of forcing a by-election and said people would be able to judge his work record over the next four years of his term.

Coun Maddison joined the Wearside Liberal Democrats a year ago and was recruited by the party’s former leader Jim Hollern. The death of Coun Hollern earlier this year led to the by-election that saw Coun Dixon take one of the three council seats for Millfield.

His new Independent colleague Coun Mike Tansey said that as the minority group in opposition – the Conservatives are the majority opposition – Coun Maddison would be leader.

Coun Tansey said: “Peter, like me, feels that more can be achieved without the shackles of the party and has had the courage of his convictions to take this tough decision rather than stay where he was.”

With two Independents, Couns Maddison and Tansey get an office at the civic centre and Coun Dixon, the only Lib Dem councillor, loses his.

Labour member for Pallion and deputy leader of the council Paul Watson said: “I can understand if a lot of people are going to feel let down by this as Coun Maddison misrepresented himself to Millfield voters and has been purporting to be something that he was plainly not.

“The electorate in the ward has every right to expect a by-election.”

The other Millfield council seat is held by former council leader Colin Anderson and the ward is now the only one in the city with three representatives from three different parties.

Sunderland council’s 75 seats are now made up of 59 Labour councillors, 13 Conservatives, two Independents and one Liberal Democrat.