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Unitary leader resigns after receiving abuse

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The leader of North East Lincolnshire Council has resigned from the council and the Labour party due to abuse he has received over unpopular decisions.

In a statement announcing his decision, Ray Oxby said as well as verbal abuse on social media and face to face his vehicle had been vandalised and “unpleasant… contents pushed through his letter box”.

He said: “Much of this has been linked to the decision on Toll Bar roundabout and goes beyond what any reasonable person should endure.”

The council is planning to replace the roundabout, which is in the ward Mr Oxby represented, with traffic lights.

Mr Oxby, stood for election in 2012 after retiring as the council’s strategic director for environmental health a few years previously. In the statement he said the role of leader of the council had had impacted on his health.

“These pressures have arisen from the difficult decisions the council has been forced to take due to cuts by central government on local government funding,” he said.

“More recently, however, the pressures have been significantly exacerbated by the verbal abuse I have received personally and via social media. This abuse has gone beyond fair political comment.”

Mr Oxby’s statement said he would not be giving further interviews and did not state why he had decided to stand down from Labour as well.

However, deputy leader Dave Watson (Lab) told LGC, it was because he wanted a “clean break with politics”.

He said his colleagues had found it difficult to understand why the Toll Bar roundabout scheme, which will introduce proper pedestrian crossings had proved so controversial.

“We all get emails and things like that but Ray had dog mess through his letter box, tar on his car, people knocking on his door and ringing him up being abusive,” Cllr Watson added.

Political control in North East Lincolnshire is on a knife edge. Until Mr Oxby’s resignation there were 18 Labour councillors who were supported by five Liberal Democrats against an opposition of 18 Conservatives and one independent. A third of seats are up for election in May.

In his statement Cllr Oxby said he was particularly proud of his work on the “town deal” for Grimsby and “the plethora of pioneering regeneration activities”.

North East Lincolnshire chief executive Rob Walsh told LGC it had been a “pleasure” working with Cllr Oxby during his four years as leader.

He said: “We have been through a lot together and I have been grateful for his support. Together I think we have got the local authority in a very good place.”

 

 

 

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