Another crisis for Oldham Tories?

Screenshot 2022-03-15 at 17.24.02

In what has been a turbulent few weeks for the local Conservative Party in Oldham and Saddleworth (read more here), the latest blow is the resignation of sitting councillor, Sahr Abid (pictured above on the right of front row) who represented the Medlock Vale ward on Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council.

She was elected with a comfortable majority in May, 2021, ousting sitting Labour councillor, Ateeque ur-Rehman. Having spoken out twice early in her tenure in the Council Chamber, over two separate planning matters, including the controversial Northern Roots project, she had appeared to become more detached over recent months.

A source close to Ms Abid says that she was uncomfortable with some of the central Government’s policies, particularly the cost of living crisis. There is also understood to be tension over the association with some of the leading lights in the local Tories, notably Lewis Quigg and Robert Barnes, Political Chair and Vice Chair respectively, and the disgraced Raja Miah (read more here) and his sidekick, Kaiser Rehman (read more here).

In a short note circulated to all the other 59 councillors, OMBC chief executive, Harry Catherall, stated that a formal Notice of Vacancy would be published tomorrow (Wednesday 16th March, 2022). Sahr Abid’s resignation will trigger a by-election in the seat which is expected to be held on May 5th, the same date as the rest of the council elections this year .

A Full Council meeting is scheduled to start at 6pm tomorrow. It is expected that the Tories will no longer sit as joint Opposition to the ruling Labour Party. Previously both they, and the Liberal Democrats, had eight seats each. The position of the Tory Group Leader, Cllr Graham Sheldon, a popular former sub-postmaster in Uppermill, is also believed to be under threat as part of the internal wrangling besetting the Party.

Sajjad Hussain has issued this statement on behalf of Oldham Conservatives [it was so poorly drafted it was necessary to edit it for publication]:

“Ms Sahr Abid has informed Oldham Council that she has resigned her seat for the Medlock Vale ward. I have been advised that due to work commitments she is no longer able to commit the time needed to be a councillor”.

“Whilst it is disappointing that she can no longer continue as a councillor, we believe that an election for the Medlock Vale ward vacancy should take place on the same day as the rest of the May 5th local elections.”

That statement is at odds with what is in the knowledge of Neil Wilby, the author of this article, concerning the reasons for Cllr Abid leaving local politics. Mr Hussain was invited to correct his statement but did not respond to the email. At a meeting of Full Council on 16th March, 2022, Graham Sheldon doubled down when telling the entire Chamber that Cllr Abid had resigned ‘due to personal commitments’.

Cllr Arooj Shah, Labour Group and Council Leader responded by saying: “I welcomed Sahr to the Council Chamber as a young, successful woman and I have great respect for her. Even more so, as she resigned because she felt that her values no longer matched the Party she represented., That is the real reason she left”.

Responding to the resignation of Conservative Councillor Sahr Abid, Deputy Liberal Democrat Leader Chris Gloster said: “Being a councillor takes a lot of commitment, and is hard to balance with work and other commitments. Several of our councillors have jobs and other commitments, and we take extra effort to ensure that they get the support needed to manage that balance. This resignation demonstrates the time and effort that is needed for councillors to support their community well.”

“My colleagues would like to wish Sahr Abid well. We are, and will continue to be, the real opposition on Oldham Council,” he added.

“There have also been reports that Councillor Abid’s resignation letter cited the Conservative Party’s policies impact on the cost of living crisis. If that is the case I can certainly understand why a councillor would find it impossible to reconcile representing Oldham’s residents – among the hardest hit by this crisis – with being a member of a party which is doing so little to help those hit hardest from rising fuel costs and the extortionate rise in the cost of living,” commented Cllr Gloster.

Sahr Abid has been approached for comment. No statement has been published on the Facebook page of the Failsworth Independent Party, who are understood to be contemplating a link up with the Tories to form the official Opposition in the next council year.

Ms Abid has a law degree (LLB) from Manchester Metropolitan University and graduated from the University of Law with a Masters degree in the same subject (LLM) and is a Licenced Professional Counsellor (LPC).  She was, previously, a Labour Party member before switching to the Tories and winning the Medlock Vale ward seat.

This is what she said in her election leaflet:

“I have lived in Medlock Vale ward all my life. Like you, I am seeing first-hand the neglect of our ward by the Labour-controlled council and our three Labour councillors. For far too long our Labour councillors have got away with doing very little. Indeed, they have taken their allowances since they were elected, but can you recall what any of it has been spent on?
It is time our area received the same treatment as others in Oldham, but to do this we need
someone with determination and passion, someone who will not take second or third best from Oldham Council.

“Unfortunately, the Labour council has yet again increased Council Tax and at a time when most families will struggle to afford this. For years Labour have wasted millions of pounds on failed projects from £418,000 on plans for a Hotel, £3.3m on Princes Gate, £3.2m on two failed plans for the Oldham Coliseum and a £30m overspend on the Cinema. We need to put a stop to this reckless spending and start using your money to improve our area.

“As tax-paying residents, it is crucial we see investment placed back into our neighbourhoods.
want to see more focus on issues which matter to us such as fly-tipping, road maintenance and safety, reducing the amount of crime in the area and more investment in our local facilities.

“It is time Oldham Council had a strong voice to stand up for our neighbourhood
I am proud to live within a community which has worked together through these difficult times and it would be a privilege to represent you on Oldham Council. I am standing in Medlock Vale ward to ensure we are treated fairly, and the needs of the ward are met. I would very much appreciate your support in the Local Election to make this happen.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and I do hope you will lend me your vote”.

Sahr Abid election leaflet

This is a developing story and more will follow later.

Page last updated at 2035hrs on Wednesday 16th March, 2022

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Photo credit: Facebook

© Neil Wilby 2015-2022. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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