St Helens Labour group has been dealt a fresh blow after its chief whip resigned.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service can reveal that Coun Joe De’Asha handed in his resignation over the weekend.
Coun De’Asha, ward member for Rainhill, has sat on St Helens Council for nearly three decades, serving as a junior whip and chief whip for much of that time.
The Labour councillor said he decided to step down as chief whip to focus on his campaign to be re-elected in the upcoming local elections.
“It has become a distraction during the election” Coun De’Asha said. “I am fighting an election.
“I’ll be out and about working on the people who know me.
“I am very comfortable. I have been here in the village a long time and my wife was born and bred in the village.
“What will be will be, but I will fight tooth and nail.”
Coun De’Asha, who is a non-voting member of the cabinet, is the latest member of council leader Derek Long’s top team to leave the fray.
In January, Parr councillor Andy Bowden resigned as deputy council leader and cabinet member for balanced development, housing and economic opportunity, citing “personal reasons”.
And Windle councillor Gill Neal resigned as cabinet member for better health and building arts and culture in November after accepting a new job, saying she could not give cabinet “the attention it deserves and needs.”
Coun De’Asha’s resignation comes amid increasing unrest within the group, which has been exacerbated by a series of leaks in recent months.
In February Labour North West ordered the group to re-run an internal party vote to elect its deputy leader after doubts were cast over its validity.
And earlier this month Bold councillor Anthony Johnson, cabinet member for collaborative services, was deselected by the local arm of the party.
While the divisions have appeared to intensify in recent months, one Labour source said the split has been widening for the past two years.
“The split in the group is like an open wound,” the Labour source said. “People need to work together and support each other.
“It is more than a split, it is an open wound.”