Two York councillors resign from the Labour Party – here’s what we know so far

Cllr Fiona Derbyshire
7 Aug 2018 @ 7.04 pm
| News, Politics

Two councillors have resigned from the Labour Party and will now sit as independents.

Fiona Derbyshire, who represents Holgate, and Hilary Shepherd, from Hull Road ward, are listed as representing Independent Socialists York.

Their decision to quit means that Labour has 13 councillors on City of York Council, one more than the Conservatives and Lib Dems, who have 12 each.

The Tories and Lib Dems run the council as a coalition.

It also means there are six independents on the council, including David Carr and Suzie Mercer, who quit the Tories after Cllr Carr was deposed as leader.

Local and national frustrations

Cllr Hilary Shepherd
Cllr Derbyshire confirmed she is going to quit as a councillor at the next elections in May.

She says that a frustration with the leadership of the national Labour Party over its stance on anti-semitism was one reason why she left the party.

But the councillor, who was Labour’s housing spokeswoman, also said she was frustrated by a lack of leadership from the local party.

This is particularly true in her role as chair of the audit and governance committee. This is the committee which has been embroiled in rows and censored reports over serious failings in the council’s procurement processes.

This is what she said in an interview with Minster FM:

What are your reasons for quitting the Labour Party?
A frustration with national issues – a lack of resolution about the anti-semitism issue that has just progressively dismayed me as it’s evolved, and there’s been no really coherent response to it.

I’ve had some frustrations locally, predominantly about feeling a dissonance with emerging national policy, and the lack of accountability we’re holding the government to.

Do you feel the party leadership in York has not been supportive enough?
I think there’s been an element of that. Obviously they have a bigger picture and a different agenda that I’m not always party to.

It’s difficult when you feel passionately about things and you really want to move forward with your view and try to effect the changes you want. And I found that quite frustrating at times.

City of York Council’s West Offices. Photograph: YorkMix

Particularly over the Audit and Governance Committee and the row over councillors seeing documents.
It was a particularly frustrating time for me. It was a difficult committee to lead.

There were a lot of conflicting expectations. I never felt we were getting to the heart of the problem, and it didn’t feel that we’d got the ability and the tools, or the support necessarily, to get that resolved.

I am sure that there are reasons why. But to me it felt that this was something that needed further work on it and it didn’t feel there was a will to do so.

‘A matter for her’

Labour group leader Cllr Janet Looker
There has been no word as yet from Hilary Shepherd on her reasons for resigning from Labour.

Labour group leader Janet Looker responded to the loss with a brief statement:

  • We’re sorry to lose Fiona and Hilary. It appears that a number of issues, principally at the national level, have contributed to Fiona feeling she wants to leave the Labour Party, and that is clearly a matter for her individually.

    As a newly formed group to be known as Independent Socialists York, we hope that they will work closely and vote with the Labour Group where possible.

    We wish them well until they stand down from the council in May, which they signalled some months ago.

And this is what Cllr Keith Aspden, leader of the York Liberal Democrats, has to say:

  • Whilst the fallout from Labour’s internal turmoil continues, it is important that the day-to-day business of the Council continues to the benefit of our residents.

    As we have done so many times before, the Liberal Democrats will continue to work in the best interests of the city; delivering on major projects and protecting our frontline services, despite the internal disputes of other parties.