Labour suspends long-serving councillor and town mayor at centre of probe

Michael Jeal - the Mayor of Great Yarmouth. Picture: Liz Coates

Councillor Michael Jeal will sit as an independent on Great Yarmouth Borough Council while a complaint is investigated. - Credit: Archant

A Labour councillor and town mayor has been suspended from his group while an investigation is carried out.

It means Michael Jeal, elected to Great Yarmouth's Nelson ward in 1986 and serving continuously since, will sit as an independent on the borough council until the issue is resolved.

Mr Jeal, who has been mayor for two years running due to Covid-19, declined to comment.

Trevor Wainwright, leader of the Labour group, said he could not elaborate on the nature of the allegation but said he expected Mr Jeal would return to the Labour benches.

He described it as "an internal party matter".

"He is an extremely well-respected councillor and a member of the party for over 40 years," he said.

"I have known him as a friend and a colleague over many years and am very disappointed that at this moment in time he sits as an independent.

"But I have every confidence that he will be returning to the Labour group.

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"I am sure things will be resolved."

Because of his civic commitments as mayor Mr Jeal has not sat on any committees in the last 12 months.

However, as an independent he is entitled to three seats after he hands over the chains of office to Sue Hacon.

His suspension coupled with Labour's failure to hold on to Claydon ward during the May by-election tips the balance of power in favour of the Tories with the Labour group holding 13 seats, the Independents four, and the Tories 22.

Conservative group leader Carl Smith said his group now had a majority of five, putting them in a stronger position with eight seats on the powerful policy and resources committee.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council met on May 25 at 7pm in person in the town hall's grand Assembly Room which is large enough for social distancing.

Because of the limit on numbers the meeting, where the make-up of all the committees was laid out revealing Mr Jeal's new Independent alignment, was also live-streamed via the council's YouTube channel.

In a statement, Great Yarmouth Borough Council said: “The council was formally notified earlier this week and updated the website accordingly to identify Cllr Jeal as an independent Labour member.”