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Tuesday, 30 September 2014

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Copeland councillor claims Labour Party 'intimidation'

Copeland councillor Brian Dixon has resigned the Labour whip, blaming “intimidation” by party members.

Brian Dixon photo
Brian Dixon

The councillor of 10 years will now represent Distington as an Independent.

Mr Dixon, of Gilgarran, near Whitehaven, chairs the council’s management scrutiny committee.

He says he came under undue pressure to drop a recommendation from the committee calling for cross-party governance of the council.

Mr Dixon said: “I am not prepared to accept this. It was collective intimidation by the Labour group.

“I wouldn’t like to say any more. I have to be careful.

“The people responsible know who they are.”

He says that the all-party scrutiny committee should be free of political interference.

It exists to monitor actions taken by the ruling executive and should not come under pressure from outside.

He added: “I believe in the integrity of the scrutiny committee. Scrutiny is independent of the council.”

The alleged intimidation came at a Labour group meeting on Monday night.

Mr Dixon resigned the Labour whip when the full council met the next day, telling councillors: “You are being led by lemmings.”

The former union organiser wants the Government Office North West to investigate Copeland. He said: “People’s views are being ignored by political leadership.”

The management scrutiny committee made seven recommendation on the way the council is run.

Its investigation followed the Place Survey, which rated Copeland third worst out of 352 councils in England and Wales for public satisfaction.

Six recommendations were accepted at Tuesday’s meeting but its call for cross-party governance of the Labour-run authority was rejected.

An investigation has also been launched into further claims from Mr Dixon that the report from the committee was doctored. He says passages that referred to the Place Survey were taken out.

Legal officer Martin Jepson told councillors that the corporate team made recommendations for items to be deleted but because of “a breakdown in communications” Mr Dixon had not been informed.

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