FORMER Labour councillors have backed Stephen George’s fight against a “toxic culture” within the Labour Group.

Mr George began his quest when he took over as leader of the joint administration in May 2022 vowing to tackle the “toxic” atmosphere and “bully boy tactics” in the council chamber.

Since then five female Labour councillors have stood down or become independents citing bullying behaviour.

These include Tricia Cowdrey who resigned from Labour to form the Residents First Group with Thorpe Ward councillor Ron Woodley.

Speaking after Mr George’s speech, she said: “I was very proud that he took the opportunity to publicly denounce the toxicity and misogyny within the Southend Labour group.

“Stephen did everything he could to support me when I was a member but was constantly undermined by a small minority within the group.

“I am proud that he has not colluded with the toxic regime and has made this stand. He has been treated abysmally.

“It takes a brave person to speak out against bullies and I do worry about the potential consequences for him.”

Former Labour councillor Kathy Murphy, who is now a non-aligned councillor for St Luke’s Ward, added: “Listening to Stephen’s words, I was very much reminded of experiences I’ve had over the past two years.

“It’s no secret that six women have left the Southend Labour Group over the last four years. One of them did indeed return last year, but the others left the party completely. “

Thanking Mr George for his support, Ms Murphy added: “I would strongly urge the Labour Party, who I believe have previously been contacted by a number of people regarding bullying and toxicity, to act swiftly on behalf of Southend Labour Party members.”