Council’s mental health champion resigns from Lewes Green group

Lewes District Council’s mental health champion has resigned from the Green Party group, citing concerns around ‘potential staff changes’ at the council.

Thursday, 12th March 2020, 12:37 pm
Updated Thursday, 12th March 2020, 12:39 pm
Sean Macleod has resigned from the Green group and will now sit as an independent councillor

In a letter posted on Twitter on Wednesday (March 11), Ouse Valley and Ringmer councillor Sean Macleod announced he is resigning from the party’s council group. 

It is understood Cllr Macleod is set to join the council’s independent group, which forms part of the cross-party alliance controlling the council.

In his letter, Cllr Macleod sets out a number of reasons for his resignation from the Green Party group, including what he describes as “potential staff changes” having “a negative effect” on staff.

He wrote: “While my heart remains in the Green Party some things have happened that I am struggling to accept, including potential staff changes happening within the council. 

“I appreciate that times are hard within councils and sometimes difficult choices have to be made but I cannot accept some changes that appear to be coming. 

“One thing I stood for was that I wanted to champion mental health at Lewes DC and since being elected it’s been clear that some of the changes happening have had a negative effect on the emotional wellbeing of staff. 

“I feel the council already struggles to operate effectively within certain departments and some of the changes would make this even harder, leading to greater pressure on our already overworked staff. 

“Put simply, I would not have supported the budget changes had I known what the potential outcome would be. 

“I take significant issue with the up-skilling of frontline staff while we continue to pay them the same low wages, making their jobs even harder while we cut core services that are struggling.”

Cllr Macleod’s letter goes on to cite concerns around the council’s decision to increase council tax and says he “was not fully aware” of the staffing changes when he voted to support it.

Cllr Macleod’s comments come after Lewes and Eastbourne Borough Council announced it had launched a consultation with staff about merging their Customer First teams.

The councils say the merger would result in some ‘limited redundancies’, with 17 jobs at risk and around 14 vacancies to be filled.

Cllr Macleod’s letter goes on to cite concerns around the council’s decision to increase council tax. 

He also wrote about his concerns over equality in his local party and what he described as “comments regarding the Trans community”.

Cllr Macleod said: “I struggle with the blind eye the party has shown to this and even though it was insisted that I make my complaint formal I couldn’t as I felt this would single me out within my group. 

“I also take issues with the need to do this when it’s pretty obvious to most it’s going on and this form of discrimination has no place within local politics.”

In a response to Cllr Macleod’s letter, a spokesperson for the Green Party said it was “disappointed” by his resignation.

The spokesperson said: “We are disappointed by Councillor Macleod’s move, which we had no warning of. He hasn’t provided the party with the opportunity to discuss or resolve any of his concerns.

“I understand Councillor Macleod’s desire to keep council tax reasonable. The impacts of Government-imposed austerity and lack of reform of the council tax system mean that local councils have little other means to fund local services. 

“The 9p per week tax rise in Lewes will fund new council homes for families in need, and measures to tackle climate change. A proportionate measure that Councillor Macleod and all other alliance councillors voted for.

 “We will now address the concerns of the voters of Ouse Valley and Ringmer. They legitimately elected three Green Party councillors to fight on their behalf. It is totally understandable if they now feel frustrated that they elected a councillor who has changed their political allegiance.”

When asked to respond to Cllr Macleod’s concerns around equality and comments towards the trans community, the Green Party spokesperson added: “We take allegations of discrimination really seriously in the party so any concerns that are raised formally will always be investigated. We’ve had no formal complaints from Cllr Macleod.”

Cllr Macleod had been one-of-three Green Party councillors elected for Ouse Valley and Ringmer in May last year.

Previously a mental health support worker, he was appointed as the council’s mental health champion in October last year.

The role was created following a motion Cllr Macleod put forward to a full council vote.

During the debate on the motion, Cllr Macleod spoke frankly about his own personal experience of mental health problems, a subject he writes about on his blog.