A ROW among the ranks of the North Oxfordshire Labour Party has seen a long-standing Bicester councillor “dumped”.

Les Sibley, a current town and Cherwell district councillor, is standing independently under his name in next month’s Oxfordshire County Council election.

Meanwhile, the North Oxfordshire Labour group has fielded Steve Sargeant as its prospective councillor for Bicester West.

Labour stalwart Mr Sibley refused to be drawn on the dispute, but the Banbury Constituency Labour Party say its view was Mr Sibley already had too many commitments as a town and district councillor and trade union representative.

Now Conservative MP for Banbury Sir Tony Baldry has waded into the row backing Mr Sibley, who he described as “faithfully” representing the people of Bicester for many years.

In a statement, Mr Sibley said: “I have put myself forward as a candidate in these local elections as I want to continue representing, working and being the local voice for people of Bicester as I have done for the past two decades.”

Sir Tony said: “Most people in Bicester will consider it a pretty poor show that the Labour Party has dumped a former Mayor of Bicester and someone who has given a large part of his life to Bicester as one of their candidates.”

The MP suggested the merger of the Transport and General Workers’ Union with other unions may have been a factor in the group’s decision, as it funded Mr Sibley’s previous general election bids.

But Terry Davis, secretary of the Banbury Constituency Labour Party, accused Sir Tony of “political mischief”. He said the trade unions merged five years ago to form Unite, and there was “no connection between trade union funding” and the group’s decision.

Mr Davis said he was “not surprised” by Mr Sibley’s decision and that he had been “drifting away” from the Labour group and “virtually stopped” attending meetings.

He said Mr Sibley had taken the matter to the independent Regional Appeal Panel of the Labour Party, but his appeal failed.

Mr Sibley was first elected as a councillor in 1995 and has previously represented the Bicester West ward at the county council between 2001 and 2005, and stood as the Labour candidate in the past three general elections.

The candidates for the Oxfordshire County Council Bicester West seat are Norman Bolster, Conservative – the sitting councillor; Darren Cain, UKIP; Elizabeth Fleming, Liberal Democrat; David Newman, Green Party; Steve Sargeant, Labour; and Les Sibley.