Cllr John Hannon and Cllr David Williams, of Redcar and Cleveland Council, have quit the Labour Party and now sit as independents. This means that Labour has lost overall control of the council.
The cause of the dispute is a u-turn from the Labour councillors over Cleveland Fire Brigade becoming a public service mutual. Labour, at a local level, used to support the idea but has now backed down - under pressure from the Fire Brigades Union and Labour MPs.Cllr Hannon says:
“It wasn’t a hard decision for me to make because I always put the people before the party.
"There was a motion recently going against the public service mutual and I was against that.
“I always thought we were behind our fire brigade and the group was backing the chief fire officer but there was a U-turn after being put under pressure.
“I am now going to the Independent group and I am looking forward to continuing to put the people first.”
The Labour MP and Shadow Fire Minister, Chris Williamson, has attacked the proposal for a public service mutual and described it as "privatization." However, Cllr Robert Payne, a Labour councillor in Hartlepool and Chairman of the Cleveland Fire Authority, said this was "scaremongering."