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Chatham Labour councillor Sijuwade Adeoye quits party over fallout

A councillor has quit Labour and will sit as an independent amid claims she was unhappy with the party over issues including racial equality.

Cllr Sijuwade Adeoye announced last week she had given up her membership and will contest Gillingham South on her own at next year's local elections.

Cllr Sijuwade Adeoye
Cllr Sijuwade Adeoye

The mum-of-two was elected to the Chatham Central ward in 2019 and had been a party member for four years.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, she explained there had been a number of contributing factors to her decision.

She was unhappy with the way she felt things are handled when it comes to the consideration the local party gives to racial equality.

She said: "Most recently, we were talking about pledges for the upcoming elections, one of the members said they didn't think we should pledge for racial equality.

"Even though we had done a survey and one of the most important things on people's minds was racial discrimination and equality, they were fighting for that to come off our pledges because they didn't think it's important enough."

Cllr Sijuwade Adeoye
Cllr Sijuwade Adeoye

She also alleged remarks were made by Labour councillors during the height of the Black Lives Matter campaign about why the subject was given such prominence.

She added: "I expect better from the party that's supposed to be championing equality."

Labour leader Cllr Vince Maple declined to comment on what he saw as an internal party issue and referred the LDRS to a statement the group had released on the matter.

Cllr Adeoye claimed she was "reduced to tears" after facing a disciplinary panel and threatened with having the whip removed after asking if she could temporarily stop paying a subsidy to the party while she dealt with personal problems.

Although she caught up with the payments, she says this situation was used against her when she sought re-selection.

She also says she was accused of not campaigning enough and being too present on social media.

Cllr Vince Maple
Cllr Vince Maple

Despite appealing the decision, and being allowed to appear before a second re-selection panel, she was not selected for the Gillingham South shortlist.

Cllr Adeoye also alleges a decision not to give evidence at a party member's disciplinary hearing in 2020 had been held against her.

Asked whether she'd consider making a formal complaint, she said had no faith in the procedure as it was a lengthy process where "people do not hear back for months or even years".

She added: "Even with my resignation, I have not had a response.

"I don't have a seat to stand in and they are were not allowing me to stand as an independent while I was a Labour Party member. So I was actually forced to resign because I have no seat.

"I am stepping out to see if I can actually make a change in this area. Medway needs it, Medway is crying out for that alternative voice."

A ballot box
A ballot box

The Medway Labour Group statement said: "Siju Adeoye chose not to seek re-election as a Labour candidate in her current ward of Chatham Central.

"She instead sought to be a Labour candidate in Gillingham and was unsuccessful in their selection process.

"The Medway Labour and Co-operative Group go into the next local elections with the most diverse team we’ve ever had, with over half of our candidates already selected being women and a record number of BAME candidates."

The LDRS was referred to the national Labour Party press office when asked for clarity on some of Cllr Adeoye's comments.

However, after two days no response had been received.

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