A ‘WITCH HUNT’ has led to a prominent Labour councillor being deselected by his own party ahead of next year’s local elections, it has been claimed this week.

Labour’s Stairfoot branch chose former councillor Karen Dyson, who lost her seat to the Barnsley Independent Group at the last election in May, as its candidate for next year’s election.

It means Coun Wayne Johnson, who currently holds the seat for Labour which will be contested in May, has to make a decision about his future.

A selection meeting took place at the town hall last week and Coun Johnson lost by 11 votes to seven. Total branch membership is about 70.

The 65-year-old - who has been in position since 2012 and is the current chairman of the Central Area Council and Stairfoot Ward Alliance - told the Chronicle this week he believes a ‘witch hunt’ has ensued which led to his deselection by the branch.

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“It doesn’t come as a surprise,” Coun Johnson said. “It’s a witch hunt, there’s no ifs or buts about that, and I’m not one to blow my own trumpet but I’ve done all I can for the community that voted me in to do the job.

“I’m one of the top-attending councillors at meetings and I hope the public’s reaction to this will make me form any future decisions.”

According to Barnsley Council’s attendance figures for meetings, Coun Johnson has attended 123 out of 132 in his current term which equates to 93 per cent.

He has been offered the chance to stand for Labour in the Worsbrough ward, which neighbours Stairfoot, but he told the Chronicle he’s loyal to his area and didn’t rule out standing as an independent in his current ward at May’s elections.

“I don’t want people to think I’m jumping ship as that’s simply not the case,” Coun Johnson added. “In reality I’m being slung overboard and I’ve now got to decide whether I’ve had enough or if I want to carry on.

“I hope the branch’s decision proves to be an unpopular one with the public and I’ll gauge the reaction in order to form my decision as to what I’m going to do. Ultimately it’ll be the residents who determine that.”

Coun Johnson is a familiar figure in Barnsley having run a menswear business for more than 25 years on Eldon Street, before more recently running a market stall specialising in ladies’ tights, based in the semi-open market and then the temporary ‘market barn’ up until his retirement.

In recent weeks he’s helped spearhead a heritage project which has resulted in a railway sculpture be positioned on the Trans Pennine Trail as a nod to Stairfoot’s industrial past.

“Ever since I became a councillor I’ve worked tirelessly for the benefit of the people in my ward,” he said.

“Unfortunately a small amount of people have had their say and my past record appears to be academic.”

A spokesperson from the Stairfoot branch of the Labour Party said: “A voting procedure was followed as usual which Karen Dyson won. There was nothing untoward in that.”