Leighton Linslade councillor switches from LibDem to Independent just weeks after election

He has accused the LibDems of ‘censorship’
Leighton Linslade West councillor Steve OwenLeighton Linslade West councillor Steve Owen
Leighton Linslade West councillor Steve Owen

An accusation of ‘censorship’ has prompted a Liberal Democrat Central Bedfordshire councillor to become an Independent instead.

Just over a month after the May elections, Leighton Linslade West councillor Steve Owen has switched political allegiance, accusing the Liberal Democrats of censorship.

His decision to sit as an Independent councillor applies to both Central Bedfordshire Council and Leighton Linslade Town Council.

In a letter to the Leighton Buzzard Observer, Mr Owen acknowledged: “Shortly after a large number of Lib Dem councillors were elected only weeks ago, I realise this will seem an odd move.”

He referred to two main reasons, saying: “We campaigned for four years on some important issues the town needs, which I helped turn into pledges to the voters in our election leaflets.

“But there’s been no signal to those thousands of voters that those pledges are being swiftly followed up since May.

“Indeed there are moves within the two new council Liberal Democrat groups to slow or halt action on those promises in one or two cases.

“And the Liberal Democrat groups on both councils have adopted rules (standing orders) restricting the ability of councillors to speak out on issues.

“I’ve been instructed to withdraw a Facebook post already and told I must submit whatever I want to say publicly “for approval”.

“I joined the Liberal Party 45 years ago because of its commitment to free speech, not to be censored and silenced,” said Mr Owen.

“After 40 years as a Lib Dem councillor, I don’t relish going from a large group of councillors into the political wilderness and leaving good friends behind.

“My problems don’t emanate from my good friend and councillor Russ Goodchild, the new leader of the town council and the majority Liberal Democrat group.

“As a democrat, I think if you promise voters something and they vote you in, you should get on with delivering those pledges if you can and with urgency where the need is urgent.

“Becoming an Independent will free me to speak out on the issues which matter to the town, such as the development of the derelict land south of the High Street, instead of staying in a group that isn’t meeting some of its promises, while ignoring and trying to silence my protests.

“I’ve more chance of influencing those issues by being an Independent councillor,” he added. “I want to apologise to those who voted in good faith for me this May as a Liberal Democrat candidate and assure them I remain committed to fighting for the key issues on which the town needs action.”

In a statement, CBC Leighton Linslade South Liberal Democrat councillor Chris Leaman said: “Councillor Owen’s decision will seem very strange to the nearly 2,000 people in Leighton-Linslade West, who voted to be represented by a Liberal Democrat councillor only a few weeks ago.

“I’m proud of how the local Lib Dem team is already working hard to fight for better access to GPs, more visible policing and the infrastructure our town desperately needs.”