Labour rebels quit party to form independent opposition group at Liverpool City Council

Eight councillors who were suspended after voting against the local authority budget have joined forces.

A group of five Labour councillors who were suspended after they broke the whip to vote against the council’s budget plan are forming an independent party.

The quintet have officially resigned from Labour and will join three other members who previously quit the council’s majority party to form a new opposition group.

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The eight ‘rebels’ said back in March that they could not support what they described as ‘brutal’ cuts in their wards and also opposed the introduction of the £40 green bin collection charge in the city.

The Liverpool City Council budget - which included a raft of measures to try and fill a £34 million gap in finances - was approved in February.

Former Lord Mayor Anna Rothery is now an independent at Liverpool City Council. Image: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

Rebels Joanne Calvert (Old Swan), Alison Clarke (Knotty Ash), Alan Gibbons (Warbreck), Rona Heron (Old Swan) and Alfie Hincks (Everton) will join forces with Sam Gorst (Cressington), Sarah Morton (Clubmoor) and former Lord Mayor Anna Rothery (Princes Park), who had previously left the Labour party.

Cllr Gorst told LiverpoolWorld: “We must now scrutinise the continuous poor decision making of the mayor and cabinet and ensure more democracy is injected into Liverpool’s local politics.”

Mayor of Liverpool Joanne Anderson said: “The Labour Party is always disappointed when members choose to leave, but my focus is on the people of the city and delivering the services they deserve.”

What does it mean for Labour?

The new group could have a significant impact on the balance of power at the Town Hall, with Labour now holding 60 seats out of 90 on the city council.

In a statement, the independent group said they would look to establish a partnership with “like-minded representatives on the council”.

Cllr Richard Kemp, leader of the largest opposition group, the Liberal Democrats, has said that he had not ruled out working with a breakaway organisation.

There are now 12 independents on the council, the same as the Liberal Democrat group. No further changes have been made to the other parties, meaning four Green Party councillors remain alongside a quarter of Liberal Party members.

The rebels’ move to break ranks from Labour comes on the heels of the party retaining one vacant seat in Warbreck and another in Everton following the victories for new councillors Sam East and Ellie Byrne.

A third by-election in a Labour seat will be held in Fazakerley after former member Lindsay Melia – who also voted against the Labour budget – stepped down.

What’s been said

Cllr Gorst told LiverpoolWorld: “I’m delighted to welcome more independents. An expansion was inevitable.

“These community driven people, like myself, were once dedicated to the Labour Party. Sadly, the Party has changed beyond recognition and displaced some great people through selection rigging, anti-democratic actions and a discriminatory whipping system.

Sam Gorst is an independent at Liverpool City Council

“We must now continue to do what’s best for our residents and our city - creating safer, greener and cleaner communities.

“We must now scrutinise the continuous poor decision making of the mayor and cabinet and ensure more democracy is injected into Liverpool’s local politics ensuring the most vulnerable are looked after.

“As independents we can speak truth to power without any gag around our mouth. I’m sure the new independent councillors will find it both emancipating and exhilarating.”

Cllr Gorst questioned how colleagues could be punished for voting for their beliefs and “protecting crucial services for residents”.

Mayor of Liverpool Joanne Anderson said: “The Labour Party is always disappointed when members choose to leave, but my focus is on the people of the city and delivering the services they deserve.

“For 12 years the Tory government have cut Liverpool’s money by 65% - £465 million - this means taking difficult decisions but always trying to protect the most vulnerable.”