South Shields Labour councillor has whip removed after backing Green Party climate emergency call
A row over the declaration of a ‘climate emergency’ in South Tyneside has seen the Labour Party withdraw the whip from one of its councillors.
Coun Angela Hamilton was the only member of the borough’s ruling party to back the motion ahead of its debate at a full meeting of South Tyneside Council in July.
This called on town hall chiefs to make the local authority carbon neutral by 2023, followed by the borough as a whole by 2030.
But the proposal, which was tabled by Green Party councillor David Francis and also supported by four other independent opposition councillors, was only approved following a Labour Party-backed amendment.
Coun Hamilton said: “I’m saddened that it’s come to this over something which is national Labour Party policy, something which I supported in the best interests of the town.
“There is an appeal going on and hopefully following that the whip will be restored, but to residents I am still a Labour Party councillor and there to represent their best interests.”
She added: “I’ve had a lot of people contacting me asking for South Tyneside to declare a climate emergency and I represented my residents’ views – that’s what I will continue to do.”
Following the suspension of the party whip, Coun Hamilton remains a Labour councillor and can attend council meetings, but she is unable to take part in the internal business of the council’s Labour group of councillors.
At July’s meeting, Labour councillors said they agreed with Coun Francis’s warning that South Tyneside’s vulnerability to sea level rises meant action needed to be taken.
But they disagreed with his timescales and instead proposed a 2030 deadline for the council to become carbon neutral.
“It hasn’t gone down very well with members of the party,” said Keith Hussein, vice chairman of the Beacon and Bents branch of the South Shields Labour Party, which is represented by Coun Hamilton.
“As I understand it, Angela has had the whip withdrawn because she supported a motion to declare a climate emergency which was consistent with Labour Party policy.
“This seems very unusual and I cannot understand why, given that it is national Labour Party policy, it’s a controversial issue, whether it was tabled by an opposition party or not.”
Coun John McCabe, chief whip for STC’s Labour group, said: “There’s very little I can say, she has had the whip withdrawn and has put an appeal in to Labour North.”
A spokeswoman for Labour North said: “We do not comment on individual cases.”