A councillor called ‘Moral’ has taken a principled stance against her erstwhile party colleagues.
EXCLUSIVE by CARL SHILTON, investigations editor
Ruth Dombey’s deputy mayor on Sutton’s Liberal Democrat-controlled council is quitting at the local elections next month because she has been “betrayed, let down and hurt”.
Annie Moral has been a councillor for St Helier ward since 2018.
Moral is among 14, perhaps even as many as 15, LibDem councillors whose names won’t be on the finalised declaration sheets of candidates for the 2022 elections when they are formally released next Tuesday. The LibDems won 33 council seats at the last council elections in 2018.
The LibDems have been the majority group on Sutton Council for 36 years, but the 2022 exodus of nearly half their councillors suggests that could all be about to change in five weeks’ time.
Moral’s decision to withdraw from the council has come to light after the Conservative MP for Carshalton and Wallington, Elliot Colburn, read a message in a Westminster debate on Wednesday which he said was from a disenchanted and very disappointed Sutton LibDem councillor.
Colburn, who is also a councillor in Sutton, declined to identify his council colleague by name.
But Inside Sutton can reveal that the councillor in question is Moral.
Colburn was speaking in a health debate about future plans for St Helier Hospital, which the Tories are seeking to downgrade, including removing its vital maternity and A&E functions.
In the debate, Colburn read from the message he’d received: “As you may know, I am standing down as a LibDem councillor.
“I was promised a lot by the party when I agreed to stand. I was told it would be easy and I’d be well-paid, but it’s been hell frankly and the party’s been no help at all.
“I can’t keep asking my family to go through this.
“I also cannot support my party’s U-turn on St Helier. We were all so excited when we heard the £500million was being announced for St Helier, but we were told we had to campaign against it as St Helier is one of the only reasons people used to vote LibDem.
“This experience has not been what I was led to believe. I feel betrayed, let down and hurt.”
And Colburn said that his correspondent had asked not to be identified because their LibDem colleagues “can be very angry and vindictive”.
The messager said of their soon-to-be ex-LibDem colleagues: “Anyone who raises any issue gets shouted down”.
One key factor in Moral’s antipathy towards her party colleagues has been the absenteeism of her ward colleague, Jean Crossby, who has attended the bare minimum of one council meeting in six months (thereby securing herself the steady stream of council allowances), and leaving all her casework to be dealt with by others.
The 42per cent attrition rate among councillors within Sutton’s incinerator-loving LibDems seems very high – almost as bad as the drop-out rate among Labour councillors in Croydon’s bankrupt council.
Those standing down include several established and cabinet-level figures. Few have been as frank about their reasons for standing down as Councillor Moral, although her explanation for her discretion goes some way to explaining why.
There’s even been suggestions that Dombey and what remains of her allowances-funded “loyal” crew have been struggling to recruit willing candidates to replace the departing councillors, even in what were once “safe” Liberal Democrat wards.
With the Liberal Democrats in Sutton having lost their two parliamentary seats in the last seven years – Sutton and Cheam in 2015 and Wallington and Carshalton in 2019 – there is a sense that the little political empire constructed by Lord Tope and former MP Tom Brake, with help from Dombey and financed in part with cash from incinerator operators Viridor, could finally be crumbling.
Read more: Senior LibDem dined with Viridor days before incinerator vote
Read more: MP Colburn in ‘angry’ row with Sutton over faulty heat network
Read more: Questions to be asked over £1.5m-worth of Viridor ‘gifts’
Read more: Councillor scarpers rather than face the heat from SDEN
Read more: SDEN: A timeline of council bungling and sky-high fuel prices
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