Southend councillor quits Labour group over ‘toxic culture’

A councillor has quit the Labour Group on Southend City Council, claiming she can no longer endure the “toxic culture” within her party as she fights cancer.

Kursaal ward councillor, Tricia Cowdrey, assured her constituents her “political values remained the same” and she would carry on as a non-aligned Independent councillor.

Cllr Cowdrey declined to give specific examples.

She said: “This was a difficult decision to make but I had to consider my own health and wellbeing to be able to be on top form to represent residents.

“The new leader, councillor Stephen George, has been working very hard to address the toxic culture of the group alongside the group deputy, Kay Mitchell and chairman, Aston Line, but any efforts have been thwarted.”

Cllr George made tackling the toxic culture within the council one of his first missions when he took over as leader of the Labour Group and the council in May.

Cllr Cowdrey added: “I have worked very hard to make sure that newer councillors, particularly those who are female, have been supported.

“Unfortunately, I feel I do not have the strength to continue trying to work effectively in this environment and I need to put my own health and the needs of residents to the forefront.”

Cllr Cowdrey will stand for again in the 2024 local elections is currently having chemotherapy for breast cancer.

Kursaal Ward colleague Matt Dent, said: “Tricia is my very dear friend. She’s an excellent councillor and representative for Kursaal. We have a very good relationship and that will continue. I’m extremely sorry that it’s come to this and she’s found it necessary to leave the group.

“I’m just heartbroken that she felt that she had no other choice but to resign.”
Last year Labour councillors Maggie Kelly and Jennifer Beck quit the party, with Victoria Ward councillor Ms Beck saying “the dynamics of the group made her uncomfortable”.

Cllr George declined to respond to the turmoil within his group but he issued a brief statement. He said: “I am sad to see Tricia go. I am sure she will continue to be an excellent representative of the people of Kursaal Ward.”

A Labour Party spokesperson added: “The Labour Party takes all complaints extremely seriously. They are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures, and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter