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SANDWELL: Local politicians react to council leader resignation

SANDWELL: Local politicians react to council leader resignation

PIC: Sandwell Council.

Local politicians have reacted to the news that Rajbir Singh has resigned as leader of Sandwell council.

Rajbir Singh resigned as leader of Sandwell council on Wednesday with immediate effect, citing “personal reasons”.

Deputy council leader councillor Maria Crompton, who had previously been an interim leader, will take on the responsibilities of council leader until a new leader is appointed.

Cllr Singh’s resignation now means he is the fifth councillor to step down from the leadership position in three years. He was at the post for six months.

Rajbir Singh, who became council leader in May this year, said: “I regret to announce that I am resigning as leader of Sandwell Council with immediate effect.

“It has been an enormous privilege to lead Sandwell and I am proud of the progress made in transforming the council into one that puts residents first.

“Being leader is also an incredibly time intensive job that requires total dedication.

“After much thought during a family holiday in India, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot continue to balance the heavy demands of council leadership with the responsibilities I also have to my young family and my businesses.

“It has been huge privilege to serve my community at such a young age and one day in the future when my personal circumstances are different, could seek opportunities to serve the community.”

Cllr Elaine Costigan (Labs, Wednesbury North) said she had “absolutely no idea” that Cllr Singh intended to resign.

She said: “I had no idea he was going to resign. Absolutely no idea. I saw the internal email come up today and I was quite surprised to see it.

“There is a Labour emergency meeting tonight to discuss what is going on. Obviously I can’t comment on that, but I am quite shocked at this.”

Cllr David Fisher, (Cons, Charlemont with Grove Vale), and leader of the opposition, said he was glad to see Cllr Singh go as he believed Cllr Singh was “not a strong enough leader”.

Speaking to BBC Radio WM, he said: “There’s been infighting within Sandwell Labour for many years, and I think a few eyebrows were raised when he originally got the post, but after six months in charge I think is not strong enough.

“Whether senior councillors and those that make the decisions from the local labour group have decided enough is enough, And sort of have made their decisions to get rid of him.”

Cllr Singh has had a tough six months as Sandwell’s council leader.

Shortly after his appointment the council was embroiled in a scandal after school transport contracts worth more than £20 million were awarded to two firms owned by a disgraced ex-employee of the council.

Bin strikes between Sandwell council’s workers and Serco – which is contracted to operate waste services by Sandwell council in the borough – continue to rumble on.

Meanwhile a recent decision to halt the closure of a care home, Walker Grange, was announced last week after a sustained campaign by families of individuals who live there.

Cllr Fisher added: “Sandwell needs a strong leader because it’s the residents at the end of their suffering, and without a strong leader, it affects businesses  that wants to come here and invest.”

Yvonne Davies, (Ind, Langley), and who was ousted as council leader in 2020 following false allegations of racism and corruption, said: “There needs to be a clear answer as to why this has happened. The Labour party needs to be prevented from interfering in decision making.

“I wish Rajbir all the best, but there needs to be a strong adherence to the seven principles of public life.

“I believe it’s important that people should be honest, should conduct themselves with integrity, and should not be interested in political decision making when they don’t like the outcome.”

Shaun Bailey MP, West Bromwich West, said: “Once again it’s the same story of revolving doors at Sandwell council and within Sandwell Labour group.

“The truth is, Sandwell Labour clearly have no grasp on the importance of being in control of the council and the responsibility that comes with it.

“The departure of the leader leaves more questions than it answers, and at such a crucial time for our communities.

“Sandwell Labour needs to stop treating the leadership of our borough with contempt, get a grip, and finally find a leader who can stay the course.”

Nicola Richards MP, West Bromwich East, said: “It will be interesting to know why councillor Singh has decided to step down so abruptly. With Sandwell Labour’s history, while it’s not surprising, it’s disappointing the revolving door of leadership is still ongoing.”

Words: Rhi Storer, Local Democracy Reporter

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