Councillor Steve Wakefield, latterly an independent councillor representing Toothill and Westlea ward in West Swindon, will now sit with Labour Party colleagues in the Swindon Borough Council Chamber.
Coun Wakefield left the ruling Conservative group in 2009 after a very active year as the town's mayor after becoming disillusioned with the Conservative budget proposals describing them as being: ‘not right for the people of Swindon.’
He told Swindon Link magazine at the time, “the Conservative Party had left him before he left it.”
On 15 November 2010 he said, "I am frustrated with the current political situation in Swindon and the choice being offered to the people of Swindon by the ruling group. Swindon people expect to be a real choice to be offered to them at election time."
See the online discussion and add your comments to his decision at talkswindon.org
Steve, on the left, is pictured in July with Dr Peter Swinyard of Phoenix Surgery, Toothill, Denis and Tina Mackie, Heidi Edwards, Coun Steve Wakefield, Pastor Gabriel Adegboyega, Annette Kennedy after the Big Lottery announced £1million to be spent on community development in Toothill. Below, Steve as mayor at the town's Steam railway festival
Derique Montaut, leader of the town’s Labour opposition, welcomed Steve to the party. “I’ve known Steve for over 20 years and over the last nine years as a Swindon councillor, I’ve asked him several times why he was a Conservative because his thoughtful contributions to debate on a wide range of subjects expoused Labour values. He is a man of integrity and tremendous experience as a former policeman, housing officer in other parts of the country, as a councillor and also a Swindon cabinet member.
“The savage cuts being implemented by the present coalition government need opposing with all the strength we can muster and Steve brings in depth knowledge and wide perspective on the political scene and what our society needs.”
Members of Swindon largest on-line social forum, Talkswindon.org, have closely followed Coun Wakefield’s performance as Swindon’s only independent councillor and forum readers were the first to learn that Coun Wakefield had applied to join the Labour Party.
Geoff Reid, co-founder of Talkswindon, said, “I’m glad Steve has joined the Labour party. He takes his role as a councillor very seriously and understands the promise he made to the residents of Toothill and Westlea when he signed the Declaration of Office. I think the final straw for Steve happened in June 2010 when Tory Minister Eric Pickles took £1.4 million from the people of Swindon and the towns Tory Councillors voted unanimously to follow that loss with other, even deeper cuts”
It’s not all doom and gloom though, Steve is hopeful for the future, partly because of the determination in his ward to cope with whatever society throws at it. He is optimistic that the Big Local lottery grant of £1 million will make a major contribution towards making Toothill a stronger community.
As to whether Steve will continue to represent Toothill and Westlea at the next local elections, Coun Montaut said that no promises of office had been made and Steve would have to go through the normal Labour Party selection procedures in advance of the elections in early May 2011. He added that other Conservative Party members on Swindon Council are considering their positions but they would only be accepted on the Labour benches if they accepted party values.
Statement from Swindon Labour Party:
Councillor Steve Wakefield has joined the Swindon Labour Group.
Councillor Wakefield was a senior housing officer for Swindon Borough Council for many years, was a member of the Conservative Group for 9 years and is a former Mayor and former Cabinet Member in Swindon Borough Council. Councillor Wakefield also has a high profile in the media, participating in debates on Radio 105.5fm and frequently writes columns for the Swindon Advertiser on Swindon’s history.
Leader of the Labour Group, Councillor Derique Montaut, stated his delight in welcoming Councillor Wakefield to the local Labour Party: “Steve Wakefield will be a welcome addition to the Labour Group, providing us with a wealth of experience over the years working in the police, being a senior officer in Swindon Borough Council’s housing department and as a former Swindon Borough Council Cabinet member. His knowledge of housing will particularly be useful for the Labour Group, bearing in mind the housing crisis we are in currently”
During my years of knowing Councillor Wakefield, he has always been independent minded and I think that the cruel and vicious cuts that are being led by the Conservatives both locally and nationally, has drove him away from the Conservative Party”
Speaking on whether further Councillors could defect to Labour, Councillor Montaut added: “We will only accept people in to our party who share Labour’s values. Even when Steve Wakefield was a Conservative Councillors, he was always seen as a more moderate influence against the Thatcherites in the Conservative Group”