‘Rift’ in Luton Labour ranks

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The sacking of a party activist appears to have uncovered a rift between Luton Borough Council’s ruling Labour group and its Labour MPs.

The group deleted its post of support worker in May this year, making Francis Steer, who also works for the MPs Gavin Shuker and Kelvin Hopkins, redundant.

But Mr Steer is claiming unfair dismissal over the process and taking the group to an employment tribunal.

In July this year, in a letter seen by the Luton News, council leader Hazel Simmons wrote to Mr Shuker and Mr Hopkins justifying the sacking and appearing to suggest there were issues in the working relationships betweeen the group and MPs.

She stated: “We all know that things are going to get tough for the people we represent under this Government and as a party we need to work together against the real enemy, the Tories.

“I would genuinely like to find a way of us all working better together both for the people we represent but also to improve relationships within the Party.

“I hope that you take this letter in the spirit that is intended.”

Mr Steer, who worked one day a week for the Labour group, was told soon after the local and national elections in May that his post was being made redundant.

But he claims the decision was made in a secret vote on May 15 after the Labour group held a discussion about policy development and campaigning.

He claims the tribunal will cost the group more than £8,000 to defend, less than his salary for the next four years.

In a letter to all Labour councillors, he said: “The Group being willing to spend this sum of money in defending this action for a one day a week post (ie spending more money on the tribunal than my continuing employment for the next four years would cost) makes the unfair dismissal look like a very much like a vindictive and discriminatory action.”

The Luton News contacted Mr Steer who said: “I cannot comment on the ongoing Employment Tribunal but I can confirm that I have taken the mover and seconder of the motion to sack me to the tribunal and Hazel Simmons, the leader of the Labour Group.”

Cllr Simmons declined to comment. Neither of the MPs was available for comment as the Luton News went to press.