BREAKING: Ashfield Labour councillor suspended due to 'poor attendance'

Cllr Chris Baron, pictured with fellow Labour member Jim Aspinall.
Cllr Chris Baron, pictured with fellow Labour member Jim Aspinall.

Ashfield Labour Group have removed the whip from former district council leader Chris Baron, citing the reason as poor attendance.

The Chad attempted to contact councillors and leaders of the group this morning for comment but were initially met by a wall of silence, until council leader Councillor Cheryl Butler confirmed Councillor Baron had been suspended due to his poor attendance record.

Meanwhile, Conservative councillors leapt to his defence, claiming he had been removed because he was more concerned with local issues than party politics.

Coun Baron has declined to comment.

A statement from the group said: "On September 5, Councillor Chris Baron was suspended from Ashfield Labour Group due to his poor attendance at meetings and failure to report absences to the relevant party officers.

"This decision was not taken lightly and only after Councillor Baron had received a formal warning about his attendance, when support was offered.

"Ashfield Labour Party has high expectations of all its elected councillors, that is why this year the controlling Labour Group cut councillors pay by £500 and linked payments to attendance," continued the statement, actually referring to new rules brought in by an independent remuneration panel in July.

The announcement coincides with our report revealing councillors expenses, including claims made by only five of 35 councillors, all Labour, to the tune of £1,000.

Read more: { councillors' travel expenses revealed|click here}

"Councillor Baron does have the right to appeal the decision, which only applies to Ashfield Labour Group meetings. This means that during the 3 months suspension Councillor Baron is still expected to carry out his role of councillor and attend all formal meetings of the council."

The Chad was made aware of the pending suspension last week but was met by silence from Labour politicians until the statement was issued.

It is unclear why the announcement was not made until three days after the suspension.

Coun Ben Bradley said: "It's a shame - it seems as though councillors who are committed to working for the community rather than the Labour party are basically being pushed out of the Labour party.

"Chris has had absences but all have been authorised whereas other Labour councillors have simply not shown up for meetings with no reason or apology and none of those councillors have been suspended, which is why I don't think it's about attendance."

"Chris has been a councillor for 20-odd years. The in-fighting in the Labour party nationally has spilled out locally."

Leader of the council Cheryl Butler said the reason for Coun Baron's suspension was his failure to notify the party when he couldn't attend so that the Chief Whip could 'put in substitutes' to push through votes

She said: "It's the fact that there are occasions where we've been left with members of our group not in attendance when votes and decisions are made as the ruling group.

"By not informing the chief whip it means we can't put substitutes in, and the fact we don't have enough people representing the Labour group, it runs the risk of decisions that need to go through."

Attendance records at Ashfield District Council show Coun Baron has had 14 authorised absences out of a possible 25 meetings, second only to Helen Smith for lack of attendance. The councillor had no unauthorised absences however, whereas former leader Glenys Maxwell had three last yer, Lauren Mitchell had four, Helen Smith had five and Sam Wilson had six.