DEPUTY mayor Ian Jones has quit Labour — saying the bullying culture revealed in Louise Casey’s 2015 report remains.
His cross-party efforts led to the Rotherham West ward member being deselected for the role of mayor in April.
And after leaving Labour on Monday (28) he was promptly removed as RMBC’s armed forces champion.
Cllr Jones, now an independent, said the bullying culture had changed but not gone away since Louise Casey’s 2015 report led to government commissioners taking over RMBC.
He added: “What’s really got to me is that Casey was brought in to root out bullying within the council. But what the party has done is just morph it into another way of doing it.
“It’s actually female elected members now deciding how the group is run and it’s no better than the way Roger Stone ran things.
“For the last 14 months I’ve been under constant investigation because of vexatious allegations about me.
“It’s all related to Droppingwell and the way in which I was the only Labour council who’s been seen to do something to support the action group.
“It’s caused jealousy. They have tried to bully me into doing what they wanted me to do.”
Cllr Jones’ involvement in efforts to prevent the Kimberworth tip from opening riled some within Labour because the site is not in his ward.
But he felt there was legitimate reason to take an interest because a boundary shake-up means Fellowsfield Way and Farm View will move into his ward.
And ironically, the reason for keeping Droppingwell apolitical was initially to protect Labour from criticism.
Cllr Jones said: “Previous decisions like not time-limiting the site access had been made by Labour and could rebound on us if what was then UKIP decided it could be a rock to beat Labour with.
“We had agreed that work on Droppingwell would be cross-party but halfway through the campaign, they decided to launch a Labour campaign and collect signatures. That did not sit right with me.”
After receiving verbal and written warnings from Labour, Cllr Jones resigned this week. He remains deputy mayor until the council AGM, which has been pushed back to May 2021.
Cllr Jones said he faced further allegations about his “uncomradely” conduct for telling his wife she would not be mayoress — and confirming details to the Advertiser.
“They said I shouldn’t have told Tracey, but we had meetings planned and interviews with the charities we were going to support,” he added.
“They also said I shouldn’t have told the council officer, who I contacted to cancel the five meetings I had with different people about being mayor.
“After the amount of bullying I’ve had from different parts of Labour group, this was something so trivial to get me on.”
Cllr Jones, who spent two years with the reservists, was midway through planning this year’s Remembrance Sunday virtual events.
“Losing the role as champion is upsetting,” he said. “I’ve got a personal connection with the veterans. They have a totally different attitude working with you compared to regular officers or councillors.
“It won’t stop me doing what I can to help but I think taking that formal role away shows the vindictive nature of what Labour has done.”
“We were working on Remembrance Sunday and they’ve removed the only one involved who had any knowledge of military workings.”
Steve Bentham-Bates, chief executive of charity Help 4 Homeless Veterans, described taking the role from Cllr Jones as an own goal by Labour.
“I think they have been vindictive in taking this away from Ian,” he added. “I’ve worked with him for a couple of years and he’s the best we’ve had for six or seven years.
“I’m sure he could have continued as an independent. Labour are just playing party politics and the armed forces community has been caught in the crossfire.
“I hope that other veterans get behind Ian. He’s fully supported veterans and he deserves out support now. It’s sad, more than anything.”
Former councillor Simon Currie, who also quit Labour to be an independent, said: “The bullies have won again in the Labour group.”
Council leader Cllr Chris Read: “Unfortunately, Ian’s behaviour has for some time been subject to a number of complaints from other Labour councillors.
“He lost the confidence of fellow councillors to become mayor earlier in the year, and following further complaints he has left the Labour group rather than enter into mediation with his own ward colleagues.
“Whilst we would of course have preferred to reach a more amicable understanding that helped people to work together positively I hope that his decision draws a line under the upset and distress of recent times.”