THE chairman of Stroud District Council has resigned from his party after claiming he was ‘stabbed in the back’ – and will now stand as an independent candidate in the May elections.

Cllr Mark Rees has represented Cainscross for Labour since 2007.

But in September he was overlooked as one of three Labour candidates to fight for the ward, which is up for election in May.

Instead he was selected to stand in Randwick and Whiteshill, an offer he has turned down.

Now the life-long Labour Party member is to fight for his seat as an independent instead.

Cllr Rees says his decision to leave the Labour group last week was the result of a ‘plot’ from inside the Cainscross branch.

He claims he was “forced out the party” and “stabbed in the back” by the branch.

“I’m very sad to step away from the party. It has been a privilege to represent the people of Cainscross for 10 years,” he said.

“This is not a decision I take lightly or a decision that I wanted to make.

“It is one that has been forced on me because of the toxic actions of a few people within the Cainscross branch itself.

“Over the past year there has been clear agenda to force me out.”

Cllr Rees said the branch had ‘isolated’ him, and says he was not consulted over key decisions and did not receive agendas for meetings.

“I have lived and worked in this ward for 25 years and I think I have always served it well as a councillor," he said.

“I am not prepared to hand over the ward, so I will be standing as an independent on May 5.”

He stressed his grievance was with the Cainscross branch, not Stroud Constituency Labour Party.

Cllr Rees will now be going head to head against his former colleagues Tom Williams, Rachel Curley.

The councillor from Cainscross has has won the seat at three elections.

A former Special Constable and a former further education lecturer, Cllr Rees works as a self-employed painter and decorator.

He will remain as chairman of SDC until the election.

All district council seats are being contested on May 5.

Labour currently holds all three seats on SDC which make up the Cainscross ward.

In a statement, Cainscross Labour said it ran a ‘fair and transparent selection process’ for candidates.

“The process was in line with Labour Party rules and all branch members were eligible to vote,” it said.

“Three candidates were selected, Rachel Curley, Jenny Miles and Tom Williams.

“Mark Rees was subsequently selected to stand in Randwick and Whiteshill.

“Cainscross Labour is saddened to hear that Cllr Rees has decided not to stand as a Labour candidate in Randwick, but to stand as an independent candidate in Cainscross.

"We very much value Mark’s contribution as a local councillor over a number of years.

“We have three very experienced local candidates standing in the district council elections who, if elected, will work hard for the people of Cainscross, Cashes Green and Ebley.”

This year sees the first ‘all-out’ SDC election since 2002.