St Helens councillor withdraws from selection process to fight Windle ward

Windle councillor Gill Neal
Windle councillor Gill Neal

A former St Helens Council cabinet member who was at risk of being deselected by Labour has withdrawn from the selection process.

The selection process for next May’s local elections has been under way for some time, with one third of St Helens Council up for election.

Windle councillor Gill Neal, former cabinet member for better health and building arts and culture, was not automatically selected by the Windle Labour branch.

Coun Neal was put on a shortlist with Fiona Ruddy, who contested the Newton ward last May, losing out to the Liberal Democrats’ David Smith.

As a result, it is understood Coun Neal withdrew herself from the selection process.

A Labour source said Coun Neal could instead contest the seat in the Town Centre ward.

Town Centre councillor Lynn Clarke, cabinet member for environmental services, is up for election but declined to say whether she would stand in the ward in May.

Earlier this month Coun Clarke was shortlisted in the Parr ward alongside sitting ward councillor Andy Bowden and Simon Neal, Coun Neal’s husband.

Coun Clarke declined the invitation to be interviewed out of support for Coun Bowden, the current Parr councillor and former deputy council leader.

Following a selection meeting, which was chaired by Coun Neal, members voted to deselect Coun Bowden and opted to select Mr Neal as the candidate for Parr.

Labour sources claim Coun Neal believed she would suffer a similar fate and be deselected by the Windle branch so decided to withdraw from the process.

Coun Neal declined for comment.