Hopes for 'fresh start' after sudden departure of South Tyneside Council leader Iain Malcolm - Labour picks up pieces after top man stands down

Labour councillors have been picking up the pieces after the sudden departure of South Tyneside Council leader Iain Malcolm – with one source saying they hope it will be a ‘fresh start’ for the party in the borough.

Outgoing South Tyneside Council leader Iain Malcolm
Outgoing South Tyneside Council leader Iain Malcolm

It is understood serving deputy leader Tracey Dixon has stepped into the breach, with a virtual meeting of Labour councillors said to have been held to discuss the next steps.

Malcolm has now left the council entirely after vacating the top job.

Deputy council leader Tracey Dixon is understood to have stepped into the breach after Iain Malcolm's sudden departure.

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His seat in the borough’s Horsley Hill ward was due to be up for re-election in May’s round of local elections, which had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cllr Dixon, a ward councillor for Whitburn and Marsden, has effectively been doing two jobs since September, when she added the council’s culture and leisure brief of departing cabinet member Alan Kerr to her existing deputy leader portfolio covering independence and wellbeing.

Labour sources said Malcolm’s departure had raised the prospect of bringing new faces to the cabinet top table to help share the load.

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One party insider said they hoped the power shift would be a ‘fresh start’ for the local authority, which in recent months has been rocked by allegations against the outgoing council leader.

Another suggested it could herald change after recent years.

Similar sentiments were expressed by independent councillor John Robertson, the leader of the opposition.

He added: “We can work with Labour councillors, but not with [the previous] clique – we want an open and transparent council.”

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A Labour Party spokesperson said: “We can confirm that Iain Malcolm has left the Labour Party, but cannot comment further due to an ongoing investigation.”

Mr Malcolm has been contacted for comment.

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