Kingston Green Party councillor Sharron Sumner has resigned from the council after accusing the Kingston Liberal Democrats of “institutionalised bullying”.
“There is a clear institutionalised behaviour of bullying and harassment from those opposite towards any councillors who dares to speak out,” she said during the Kingston council meeting on January 27.
A Kingston Liberal Democrats spokesperson said: “We’re always saddened when a councillor feels as if they are unable to complete their term and we wish Cllr Falchikov-Sumner well for the future.”
Kingston Council declined to comment.
Sumner also criticised the whistleblowing policy of the audit, governance and standards committee.
She said: “Looking through this policy, I was shocked to find no reference to elected members, and protections afforded to them, should they feel the need to whistleblow.
“Members of the public get protection in this policy, Council employees get protection in this policy, but elected councillors get nothing in this policy.
“I know speaking to officers who have whistleblow to me that the administration is not telling the truth about Seething Wells, they are not telling the truth about the future of Tolworth Court Farm – a nature reserve which includes rare chalk stream habitat and ancient woodland.
“Yet any elected councillor who attempts to speak out is bullied into silence.
“Madame Mayor, I will not be silent.”
Conservative councillor Kevin Davis said Sumner resigned with “a very emotional statement”.
He said: “It is clear she believes she has faced a torrent of abuse, accusations and misogyny from the Lib Dems in Kingston ever since she dramatically quit the party.
“I would urge the Lib Dems to reflect on actions that seem to have forced out of the Council a very capable community campaigner.”
In 2018, former Alexandra councillor Sumner resigned from the Liberal Democrat group on the Kingston council.
She said she was disappointed by the Lib Dem Council’s failure to get to grips with tackling the toxic pollution affecting the community, the increasing threat of climate breakdown and the Council’s record which has seen them go back on many promises – including closing half of the borough’s children centres.
She joined the Kingston Green Party in February 2019.
Sumner’s resignation comes after Jon Tolley withdrew from Kingston Liberal Democrat group on Kingston Council over the Kingfisher dispute in September last year, when a committee on the Lid-Dem led Council agreed to knock down the Kingfish leisure centre.
Sumner also said that residents have been let down by the Council in its handling of the Kingfisher.
And in October 2021, Lib Dem councillor Caroline Kerr stepped down as leader of Kingston Council after 18 months in the job.
As a Green Party councillor since May 2018, Sumner advocated for saving Seething Wells, a historic and protected nature reserve, from destruction.
Her petition to preserve Seething Wells filter beds demanded the council to use powers to purchase the site on behalf of the community. Plans to destroy the reserve still continue as the council refused to consider purchasing the site.
Sumner said: “We have all seen the destruction and devastation that has happened under the council’s watch in Seething Wells.
“Residents throughout the borough have been absolutely heart-broken to see what happened.”
Local residents and activists protested on February 10 at Guildhall to fight to save the filter beds as a local nature and wildlife and national heritage asset.
Sumner said in the council meeting that she would be continuing campaigning as a private citizen, focusing on working with local businesses and saving Seething Wells together with Meetings Wells Social.
She said: “I will continue to speak out and tell the truth to residents on the rotten policies pursued by this administration.”