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Petition calls on Slough leader to resign following 'bullying' accusations

James Bagley. Local Democracy Reporter

Petition calls on Slough leader to resign following 'bullying' 'accusations

Cllr James Swindlehurst and Cllr Madhuri Bedi

A petition has been launched calling for the leader and deputy leader of Slough Borough Council to resign following ‘bullying’ accusations.

Independent councillor Madhuri Bedi (Foxborough) quit as a Labour member at a full council meeting on the budget in early March, saying the 4.99 per cent rise in council tax would prove ‘too much for too many’ and criticised the Labour-run council’s decisions.

Following her resignation, the leader of the council, councillor James Swindlehurst (Lab, Cippenham Green), said all the people who choose to leave Labour are never heard of again because the public ‘don’t put their faith in traitors, splitters and quitters’.

Since then, a row over ‘bullying’ and ‘sexism’ accusations has kicked off with an account called ‘Foxborough Ward’ launching a petition on Change.org.

The petition has gained more than 140 signatures and calls for the leader and deputy leader of the council to resign, saying they ‘act like a dictatorship’.

In response to the petition and its accusations, Cllr Swindlehurst said those who argue for the resignation of the legitimately elected leadership of the council are ‘undoing’ the democratic process.

He said: “The majority of residents in Foxborough who voted for Cllr Bedi did so because she represented the Labour Party, and they will share my disappointment with her decision to leave them without the political representation they voted for.

“Council meetings are a forum where challenges are addressed, and difficult decisions taken. Councillors feel passionately about the causes they champion and debates can be robust.

“Robust debate and passionate speeches should not however be used by those who disagree with the sentiments as a cover for seeking political advantage and calling for my resignation.

“Cllr Bedi was a participant in all the advanced discussions that shaped the budget inside the Labour Group, so her recent actions are nothing more than a cynical attempt on her part to distance herself from policies she had been elected to enable by the residents of Foxborough who voted overwhelmingly for Labour representation.”

When asked if Cllr Swindlehurst would like to apologise to Cllr Bedi for his ‘traitor’ remarks, he said his comment was not aimed at the former Labour member and, therefore, has ‘nothing to apologise for’.

He added he believes his comments did not breach the code of conduct.

In response, Cllr Bedi denied she was at the Labour budget meeting, adding: “I attend to what I had to attend because of the complete bullying. It just doesn’t stop.

“In ordinary years, I don’t have a problem, but this year we had unprecedented pain [that] we needed to reflect on that and do something in the budget.”

Cllr Bedi refuted that Foxborough locals were ‘disappointed’ in her resigning as a Labour party member, saying residents have sent her messages of support on her decision to stand as an independent councillor.

She also said her campaign for the local elections this May is run by Foxborough residents.

The chair of the Slough Labour Group, councillor Christine Hulme, said Cllr Bedi has made no complaint regarding bullying and sexism allegations with herself or with the chief whip of the Labour Group, and is not aware if Cllr Bedi has raised a complaint to either regional or national party officials.

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