A FORMER Labour councillor who quit the party less than six months after being elected onto St Helens Council has joined The Independents.

Cllr Pam Howard, who was appointed as chief whip of St Helens Labour shortly after being elected to the Earlestown ward in May, has been sitting as an independent since she resigned the Labour group whip in October.

At the time, Cllr Howard accused members of “poor behaviour” and bemoaned a lack of support from council leader David Baines.

Her departure prompted calls from Labour to relinquish her seat in Earlestown to contest a by-election.

Cllr Howard insisted she would continue to serve the people of Earlestown as an independent and today (Monday), Cllr Howard has announced she will be joining The Independents, along with Rainhill councillors James Tasker and Donna Greaves, and Windle’s Gill Neal, another former Labour councillor.

The move now means The Independents are now the joint-biggest opposition group on the council, along with the Liberal Democrats.

Cllr Howard said: “Having left the St Helens Labour group back in October last year, I have now had time to consider and explore all I need to know to help me decide that joining councillors Greaves, Neal and Tasker, within The Independents is the right place for me to fully carry out my role as a local councillor.

“This decision is certainly not ‘knee jerk’, it’s taken me time, as I formally raised a number of concerns with the Labour Party nationally prior to me cancelling my membership.

“My concerns have been received but not investigated to date, the general election back December being stated as a reason for a backlog of complaints to Labour still requiring attention, although I have received numerous reminders to update my subscription payments.

“My values have not changed and my commitment remains to Earlestown residents, and it’s refreshing to now be involved in healthy, open, respectful debate within The Independents and I look forward to picking up committee work and responsibility again, on behalf of a group of like-minded people, wanting the best for their constituents and St Helens.”

St Helens Star: St Helens Town HallSt Helens Town Hall

Cllr Howard, a long-standing Labour member, became chief whip of the St Helens Labour group shortly after being elected.

But it is understood she became increasingly frustrated with the behaviour of some members of the group and voiced these concerns with a number of councillors as well as regional Labour and union officials.

Things came to a head in October when Cllr Howard notified councillors of her decision to resign the Labour group whip.

In the email, which has been seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Cllr Howard accused members of “inappropriate behaviour” and claimed to have been subjected to “intimidation” in her role as chief whip.

Cllr Howard said she’d been challenged by “a couple” of members who thought they were “above the rules” and said she would not protect or appease any member who brings “embarrassment” to the group or party.

St Helens Labour said at the time that it takes any accusations of improper conduct “extremely seriously” and would investigate any accusations if presented with evidence.

Following her decision to join The Independents, Cllr Tasker, leader of The Independents said, “Labour’s loss is our gain”.

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

Cllr Tasker said: “It’s great to have Pam join us, she has many years of experience of working within local government, and as a trade unionist she is hands on helping people in vulnerable situations.

“Pam is rapidly building up her community base within Earlestown and understands the values of being a local councillor.

“She saw first-hand how the Labour group is divided and how this impacts on the work of the council – egos and personal agendas bring nothing to the challenges the council face.

“There are too many within the Labour group who are pushing their own agenda, at the cost of the borough and this needs to stop.

“I look forward to working with Pam over the next few years, Labour’s loss is our gain.”