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Labour councillors risk becoming 'enemy within' over party review

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Labour’s most senior councillor has warned colleagues risk being “villified as the enemy within” the party should controversial changes to the way leaders are appointed are resurrected.

Nick Forbes, who is Labour group leader on the Local Government Association, said councillors had temporarily “won the battle but not the war” after the party’s executive deferred a decision on the Labour democracy review until next year.

The review had proposed letting party members elect Labour council leaders and also recommended a return to the local government committee system with affiliated trade unions being able to add candidates.

At an LGA group meeting at Labour conference on Sunday Cllr Forbes described this decision as an insult to councillors that had been triggered by a movement from the party’s left wing.

The leader of Cambridge City Council Lewis Herbert agreed with Cllr Forbes and added there had been “no proper engagement with councillors” when the review was originally drawn up.

“Councillors are the bedrock of the party, we are the numbers that fill the ranks,” said Cllr Herbert. He said it was “good” there would now be “lots more discussion”.

When asked if he was worried for his position or the position of others, Cllr Herbert said that good leaders were “community activists that believe in engaging with their communities” and therefore had no reason to fear the changes.

Leigh Redman, leader of the Labour group on Somerset CC, said the matter had been referred to the Association of Labour Councillors which would engage in discussions before the review is brought to conference next year.

“Let’s just say it’s going to be very interesting at conference next year,” Cllr Redman said.

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