'Racist' calls as Independent/Tory coalition takes power of drama-strewn council

·3-min read
Cllr Miles Parkinson
Cllr Miles Parkinson

POLICE escorted angry members of the public from a local authority annual meeting on Thursday after one of them branded its newly-confirmed leader a "racist".

The disturbance at Accrington Town Hall followed former Labour turned Independent Cllr Miles Parkinson remaining boss of Hyndburn Council, propped up with Conservative support.

Two police officers were present at the meeting following previous problems in the gallery at recent meetings of the authority, including when an assault took place during a meeting break.

Veteran councillor June Harrison shocked the meeting as she became the latest politician to quit Labour, blaming former MP Graham Jones for the bitter in-fighting that had split the party.

Jones - ousted from Parliament in 2019 as part of the 'Red Wall' collapse - was present at the meeting and shouted from the public gallery: "It's just lies June and you know it's lies."

He also called on the former Labour councillors sitting as independents to resign, as they were elected as representatives of the Labour Party, not because of them as individuals.

Then Cllr Parkinson, who quit Labour in March, described Mr Jones as "the puppetmaster".

At this point several occupants of the public gallery got up and left with one shouting: "You're the puppetmaster racist Parkinson."

This referred to a February 2014 emails from Cllr Parkinson which described four Muslim colleagues as having 'bigoted religious dangerous views'.

They included new leader of the Labour group Cllr Munsif Dad and new Mayor Cllr Abdul Khan.

Earlier in the meeting, Labour had failed to challenge Cllr Parkinson's position as leader and rejected an invitation from him to join a rainbow coalition to run the borough.

This followed Cllr Harrison becoming the latest Labour councillor to quit the party saying: "I still have my roots and beliefs in the Labour Party but not Hyndburn Labour group or constituency Labour party which is run by Graham Jones and Kimberly Whitehead.

"I cannot stand by and watch as he uses the the councillors to do what he thinks should be done on Hyndburn Council."

This left the political balance of the council at 14 Labour councillors to the Conservatives 14, along with six Independents and one vacancy.

Cllr Dad responded to Cllr Harrison: "This Labour group will be run by me. If it is not being run by me, I will resign."

After the meeting Mr Jones denied the allegation he and his partner Ms Whitehead were running the Labour group and party, adding: "The Parkinson-ites all got elected asking Labour voters to vote for them, but have now swapped to supporting the Tories to keep their allowances and positions of power.

"If they had any principles, they would resign immediately and stand as independents to let the voters decide."

Cllr Parkinson had proposed an all party Cabinet with himself as leader, Tory group boss Cllr Marlene Haworth as his deputy alongside fellow Conservatives Cllr Peter Britcliffe, Cllr Stephen Smithson and Cllr Kath Pratt with Cllr Dad and Labour's Cllr Joyce Plummer.

Cllr Dad declined saying the borough needed "a strong opposition that can challenge and scrutinise the executive".

Cllr Parkinson rejected Mr Jones call to resign: "The Labour Party in Hyndburn has left us and how it is being run is vile. I am not a racist.

"I am disappointed that Cllr Dad rejected by invitation for Labour to join the Cabinet for the betterment and benefit of the borough."

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