Further sanctions against Blackpool councillor at centre of anti-Semitism row

A Blackpool councillor suspended by the national Labour Party for anti-Semitism has now also left the council's Labour group.

By Shelagh Parkinson
Friday, 5th August 2022, 10:10 am

Coun David Owen, who has been a Labour councillor for more than 40 years, is listed as a non-aligned Independent councillor in a move which further weakens the ruling Labour group's grip on the town hall.

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Labour lost overall control of the council in July 2021 when former leader Coun Simon Blackburn left the party voluntarily following his suspension, although at the time he said he would continue to vote with his former party.

Coun David Owen

While Labour remains the biggest group on the council with 19 councillors compared to 16 Tories, decisions depend on how the seven independent councillors vote.

They include three members of the Blackpool Independents, and four non-aligned Independents.

Coun Owen's conduct has also cost him his £8,531 role as chairman of the planning committee.

Council leader Coun Lynn Williams said: "Coun Owen has been suspended from the Labour Party, he has left the Labour group and will sit as an Independent. He will be replaced as chair of the planning committee.

The make up of the council chamber has changed

"In terms of control of the council, whilst there will be changes to committees, which is determined by democratic services within the council, we remain as the largest group on the council."

Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservative group, said Coun Owen had no choice other than to resign from the Labour group.

He said: "Had the Labour group decided to keep him in their group then they would be seen to be supporting both him and his anti-Semitic views.

"It’s interesting to note that Coun Owen’s suspension and his departure from the council’s Labour group makes him the fourth Labour councillor to either be suspended or voluntarily resign from the Labour Council since they were elected, which includes the former leader Simon Blackburn and his deputy.

"That’s a clear indication that there is utter turmoil in the Blackpool Labour camp and questions should be asked if they are fit to run the town.

"The political balance will now most certainly change because of Labour's dwindling numbers and the Conservative councillors are looking at all options as to actions when the formal review takes place in September."

Coun Owen has been suspended from the Labour Party for 18 months until December 2023 following an inquiry into eight postings he made on Facebook between September 2016 and July 2020.

He has apologised for his comments and sharing of articles which related to views of relations between Israel and Palestine, and is appealing against his suspension.

Layton councillor Martin Mitchell left the Labour group in April this year saying he had become '"disenchanted" after losing his role as a scrutiny committee chairman, while Coun Graham Cain was expelled from the party in summer 2020 following an investigation into complaints about a post he shared on Facebook.

Recent times have also seen the departure of councillors Gary Coleman and Debbie Coleman from the Labour group after they left voluntarily and formed the Blackpool Independents ahead of the last local elections in May 2019.