Labour’s Sonya Ward gives view on Mansfield Independent Forum resignations

The Labour party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Mansfield has hit out at mayor Kate Allsop and her party amid what she describes as “turmoil” at the council.

Councillor Sonya Ward, Labour member for Pleasley Hill and Bull Farm, has criticised the council amid two high-profile resignations from the Independent Forum.

Councillor Sonya Ward.

Councillor Sonya Ward.

Councillors Stephen Garner and Andy Sissons announced last week that they have left the mayor’s Forum, which controls the council, to form their own Mansfield South Independents Group amid “political differences”.

Councillor Ward, who is also leader of the opposition Labour party on the council, has suggested the mayor’s Forum is “in crisis”.

She said: “It’s been a bruising year for mayor Kate Allsop and her ‘Mansfield Independent Forum’ run council.

“The Mansfield Independent Forum didn’t field a candidate in last years general election, and now their councillors are jumping ship - you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re lurching from crisis to crisis.

Councillor Stephen Garner.

Councillor Stephen Garner.

“The mayor and her cabinet still run the council, and they need to get their act together quickly if they have any chance of regaining the trust of local people.

“The opposition Labour party in Mansfield will continue to hold this council to account, and at the elections next year, we’ll be offering Mansfield and Warsop a clear choice.

“You can either have a fair deal with Labour or more turmoil and decline with the Mansfield Independent Forum.”

Councillor Garner revealed that he and Coun Sissons stepped away from the Independent Forum to “put constituents first”, however he insists there is “no animosity” towards the mayor.

Councillor Andy Sissons (left).

Councillor Andy Sissons (left).

He said: “We have been disgruntled with the independents recently, but this is not a personal matter. It is certainly not a fight against Kate it is simply we just wanted to be independent of the Independents.

“We have been contemplating this for a while and recently there have been a few things – which I will not go into detail on – that broke the camel’s back so to speak.

“We will continue to vote in council meetings based on our own views and want to represent our constituents in the best way we can.”

The change in composition means the Mansfield Independent Forum is no longer the largest group on Mansfield District Council.

Mansfield District Council

Mansfield District Council

The council is now made up of 17 Labour members, 16 Forum members, the two Independent Group members and one unaligned member, Coun Steven Harvey, of Kingswalk ward, plus the mayor.

Under Mansfield’s executive mayor system, the mayor has the final say on decisions and selects her cabinet to create laws and pass budgets.

Speaking on the resignations of Coun Garner and Coun Sissons, the mayor dismissed any signs of a rift and said it changes nothing for her Forum.

She said: “I am not entirely sure of their reasons, but I believe it isn’t malicious.

“They haven’t left for another party and their clearly isn’t any rift, so it is business as usual for us as a council.”

It is yet to be seen what impact the pair’s resignation will have on the county council, which is run by a Conservative-Forum coalition.