Labour councillor who quit party over Corbyn gets kicked off committee he chaired

A Durham county councillor who quit the Labour Party last year has lost a bid to continue leading a key council committee overseeing children’s services.

Monday, 27th January 2020, 4:40 pm
Updated Tuesday, 28th January 2020, 8:21 am

In an open letter posted on social media, the pair criticised national Labour leadership, stating the party had “abandoned traditional values” and “moved to the far left.”

The letter also claimed debate between local councillors on the issue had been “shut down”.

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Independent councillor Peter Brookes

After leaving the Labour party, the councillors automatically lost their seats on council committees including the Corporate Parenting Panel, which Coun Brookes previously chaired.

Both are currently listed as independents with no affiliation to any party.

At a recent meeting of Durham County Council on Wednesday, January 22 opposition councillors launched a bid to return Coun Brookes to the role.

The move came during an item to appoint a chair to the Corporate Parenting Panel, with Labour’s Coun Ivan Jewell also nominated.

Coun Brookes told the meeting the panel had gone from “strength to strength” over the last six years under his leadership.

The former social worker said he had led political changes in the panel which led to the panel receiving a ‘good’ rating from Ofsted.

Other achievements included developing “positive links” with the Children in Care Council and leading the creation of a governing body for Aycliffe Secure Unit.

“This has led to a growing positive reputation for corporate parenting, good relationships between members and officers and a wide recognition that Durham has been getting it right,” he said.

In a speech on his nomination at Durham County Hall, Coun Brookes also hit back at the council’s Labour group.

He added: ” I was very disappointed when following the Corporate Parenting Panel being nominated for an LGC (Local Government Chronicle) award, the Labour group decided to stop me attending the nomination meeting a fortnight ago on behalf of this council to make the case for Durham’s success under my watch.

“A decision that seems to have been taken for political reasons rather than for the good of Durham.

“Thank you for the support and I hope that all members will agree that it is in the interests of the council and more importantly Durham’s looked after children for me to continue in the role as chair.”

As Coun Brookes was not a member of a political group council rules restricted him from returning as chair, the meeting heard.

Some opposition groups, including the Liberal Democrats and county council independents, offered to give up their seats on the Corporate Parenting Panel to allow the nomination.

A motion to defer the decision, proposed by Lib Dem councillor Mark Wilkes, was also defeated with 61 votes against, 42 in support and 1 abstention.

Coun Ivan Jewell, who already served as a Corporate Parenting Panel member, didn’t speak on his own nomination at the meeting.

He was later appointed as chair of the panel with a majority vote, with 63 votes in favour, 36 against and five abstentions.

The Corporate Parenting Panel aims to ensure the council is acting as a good corporate parent to children, young people in care and care leavers.

The committee has responsibility for children placed for adoption, those in foster care and young people in secure services/ custody.

It also gathers feedback from young people and works in partnership with agencies to drive forward improvements in care.