Last night at the Full Meeting of Walsall Council, Councillors as part of the meeting agenda had the opportunity to fill the vacant Deputy Mayor’s position following the sad passing of Walsall Labour Councillor for Pleck Cllr Harbans Sarohi.
Walsall Labour Group Leader Cllr Aftab Nawaz in line with the long-held tradition of seniority for selecting the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Walsall formally nominated former Group Leader and Councillor for Willenhall South Cllr Sean Coughlan. This was seconded by Councillor Lee Jeavons (Birchills Leamore).
After a named vote last night Cllr Sean Coughlan’s nomination was voted down and blocked by the whole of the Walsall Conservative Group including Council Leader Cllr Mike Bird and Independent Councillor Cllr Pete Smith (Blakenall) voting against the nomination of Cllr Coughlan.
Cllr Aftab Nawaz said the decision to block Councillor Sean Coughlan from taking up the civic role of Deputy Mayor was a vote against people with mental health problems.
Cllr Nawaz added: “This shames Walsall. The message we have given out today to all those people who have suffered and are suffering from mental health is they have no chance in Walsall and they’ll be written off.
“We won’t stand for this and we’re not going to take any more part in this meeting tonight.”
All members of the Walsall Labour Group including Mayor Cllr Rose Burley then left the meeting in support of Cllr Sean Coughlan and in protest at the shameful decision made by the Walsall Conservatives and Cllr Pete Smith.
After the Walsall Labour Group had left the meeting Group Leader Cllr Aftab Nawaz commented:
“The Conservative Group together with the so called independent voted against a person who has had mental health issues and has publicly spoken about it very bravely and come out the other side in a stronger position.
“Councillor Coughlan has been very brave putting himself forward for the position of Deputy Mayor and he had the unanimous and strong support of the Labour group.
“We couldn’t remain in a meeting that decided to vote against him on the basis of his mental health.
“We found it a horrendous decision by the Conservatives and the so called independent. It was a vote against all those people who suffer with mental health issues and it told them that in Walsall there is no place for them.
“The Walsall Conservatives, together with the not so independent Peter Smith, have shamed this council and shamed the borough.
“What are they going to say to the next staff member who comes forward to say ‘I’m suffering’? People will be too scared to speak up.
“I have no intention of stepping back. We won’t walk out of the next meeting but we will still put Sean forward. For us, nothing will change and if they continue to vote against him, that is their decision.”
Councillor Nawaz added that Walsall Labour will always stand in solidarity with those suffering from mental health and will treat them with respect rather than punishing them. Mental Health can impact on anyone – our family members, friends and colleagues – we will always support those that suffer from this illness. The people of Walsall have seen from the meeting the difference in our approach to mental health and that of the Conservatives and their friend.
WE WILL ALWAYS STAND WITH THE PEOPLE OF WALSALL NOT AGAINST THEM.