A third councillor, and cabinet member, has quit the Conservative group on Peterborough City Council blaming the “disgraceful treatment” of Cllr Mohammed Farooq and the “vicious campaign to humiliate and bully him”.
Cllr John Howard, cabinet member for adult social care and public health, said: “I can’t truly put into words the level of disappointment and sadness I feel about this whole matter.”
He said: “The disgraceful treatment of my colleague and friend Councillor Farooq has made me realise there is no welcome for a voice of reason and fairness in this group.
Should @Cllrfitzgerald stand down as leader of Peterborough City Council in the wake of bullying allegations?
— John Elworthy (@johnelworthy) June 7, 2023
“I thought nothing could sadden me more than leaving a group I’ve worked so hard for over the years, but the treatment of my ward colleague and friend has saddened me the most.”
Cllr Howard added: “You will no doubt be aware of the accusations levelled at Councillor Farooq while he was suspended.
“These allegations have been evidenced as completely false and I believe this was part of a vicious campaign to humiliate and bully him into leaving the group.”
Cllr Howard, who represents, like Cllr Farooq, the Hargate and Hempsted ward, said he had resigned from the Tory group and relinquished his cabinet role.
“I came into politics to help support residents in my local ward where I live, and to help improve vital services in the city,” he said.
“I have always put the people of the city before politics in my approach.
“The Conservative group has gone through a very challenging few weeks with the recent resignations, and I had hoped to remain to be a voice of reason and fairness in such a turbulent period.”
Watch the interview and see if you are as affected as I was when I recorded it.His treatment has been appalling https://t.co/4ndU2WE20R
— Paul Stainton (@PaulStainton) June 7, 2023
Cllr Howard has been a city councillor for just over four years, and in that time has been a cabinet advisor for housing, culture, and communities.
More recently he has responsible for the largest portfolio in the council as cabinet member for adult social care, health, and public health.
“I am proud of my achievements in the group, highlights include contributing to the return of the Great Eastern Run and meeting Professor Chris Whitty to discuss the health needs of the city,” he said.
“I have enjoyed building a good relationship with council officers and being involved in high-end decision making.
“I have always believed that a political party doesn’t make someone good or bad, people’s individual actions do, and that’s why I have a good rapport with councillors across the political spectrum.
“I look forward to working with them for the good of Peterborough.”
Cllr Howard was re-elected in May 2023, with an increased majority, as councillor for Hargate and Hempsted ward which he has represented since 2019; he has also served for many years on Hampton parish council.
Officials at NW Cambridgeshire Conservative Association have praised Cllr Howard’s achievements and noted that these included helping to establish the Hampton Angling Association in partnership with Cllr Marco Cereste (Hampton Vale ward) following an approach by a keen local fisherman.
A post on the association’s Facebook page says: “While being neither a fisherman nor an allotment holder, John’s particular way of relaxing is by running!
“In the past he has completed several marathons around the country as well as taking part in the Perkins Great Eastern Run, raising funds for the Alzheimer’s Society.
“His ambition, once his children are a little older, is to qualify for the 100 Marathon Club”
His resignation will be a further blow to council leader of two years, Wayne Fitzgerald.
On his election Cllr Fitzgerald launched an “Ask the leader online session” but the biggest question for today might well be ‘where to now, Wayne”.
One of his pledges on becoming leader was to be” even more transparent and to allow people to have a connection with those they have elected to serve them”.
Cllr Howard is the seventh Tory councillor to leave the group since last month’s local elections.
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