A FORMER St Helens Labour councillor has joined The Independents.

Windle councillor Gill Neal quit the party last month following a bitter internal row that broke out during the selection process for the 2020 local elections.

Prior to leaving the party, Cllr Neal had been selected to stand in the Town Centre ward next May ahead of sitting cabinet member Lynn Clarke.

Upon resigning the Labour whip, Cllr Neal accused members of leaking “damaging” confidential details to the media and also claimed she had learned of a social media campaign to “smear” her.

Cllr Neal said she would not be standing for election next May but last week performed a U-turn, announcing she will stand as an independent in Windle.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service can reveal Cllr Neal has now joined The Independents, alongside Rainhill councillors James Tasker and Donna Greaves.

St Helens Star: Cllr James Tasker, leader of The IndependentsCllr James Tasker, leader of The Independents

Cllr Neal said: “I have been deeply touched by the support offered by James and Donna in recent weeks and have come to value their integrity and principles when making decisions for their residents.

“They have shown me that leaving the Labour group does not mean I have to abandon the community I have represented for the last three years and the broad group of The Independents means that I can follow my conscience and the values I hold dear and fully represent the needs of the residents without the confines of the whip.

“I am enjoying working alongside my colleagues who have renewed my vigour and I’m looking forward to campaigning in the coming months to continue to represent the people of Windle with the same passion and commitment I have for the last three-and-a-half years”

Cllr Tasker was elected onto the council as an independent in May 2018, beating Labour’s Stephen Glover by a landslide.

Cllr Greaves joined the council in similarly emphatic fashion in May, crushing long-serving Labour councillor Joe De’Asha in Rainhill.

Shortly after the two councillors registered The Independents as a political party.

Cllr Tasker, leader of The Independents, said: “Donna and I met with Gill recently and from talking to her it is clear that she is doing this for the right reasons and we are looking forward to working together.

St Helens Star: Cllr Donna Greaves, The Independents councillor for Rainhill Cllr Donna Greaves, The Independents councillor for Rainhill

“Windle and the surrounding areas are going to suffer if Labour’s Local Plan and green belt destruction is approved. The residents in Windle need someone who is going to fight for them.

“Several other Labour councillors have been in touch about a possible switch and providing that they have the right motives then the door is open for them to.”

Cllr Greaves added: “I’m delighted that Gill has joined us because I respect Gill for wanting to follow what is best for Windle and not what is best for the Labour group, as we did in Rainhill.

“Gill will be a great addition because of her experience and knowledge and I’m really looking forward to working with her.”