Former Liberal Democrat chair denies ‘bullying’ claim by member

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New Forest Liberal Democrats
The claim is being looked into by Liberal Democrat regional party officials (Photo: stock mage)

THE former chair of the New Forest Liberal Democrats has been reported to the party’s HQ over an allegation of bullying.

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Roger Stephens, who denies the claim, is facing an investigation by regional officials based in London.

It follows a complaint submitted by Cllr Matt Kitcher, a Lib Dem member of Hythe and Dibden Parish Council, who resigned this month as vice-chair of the local party.

Mr Stephens was chair for a year until standing down at the party’s AGM in December and being replaced by the election of Cllr Ben Thompson, a member of Totton and Eling Town Council.

Cllr Kitcher (22) spoke out on social media earlier this month, saying he was “ashamed and embarrassed of my local party”, and that he was even considering quitting to become an Independent councillor.

Cllr Kitcher represents the Langdown ward on Hythe and Dibden Parish Council and was elected in 2019.

He told the A&T: “There were a few issues that made me feel I was not best suited to deal with. I took the decision to step down which was over the issue of someone bullying in the local party.

“It was quite a while ago but it was not dealt with because everyone was too scared to go against him. Now that he’s gone it’s being dealt with.”

Mr Stephens ran unsuccessfully for the party in the New Forest District Council ward of Fawley, Blackfield and Langley in the 2019 local elections.

When the A&T put the allegation to him, Mr Stephens said he had not been informed about it, replying: “That’s news to me.”

He added: “I really can’t make a comment unless I have the details. But if there’s an allegation of bullying then I specifically deny that.

“I have had a very successful year. It was very busy – we had the local elections in May and the general election in December.”

A spokesperson for the group said: “The New Forest Liberal Democrats can confirm an internal investigation has been launched after allegations of bullying were raised of an ex-party official.

“Any such allegation is taken very seriously, and the matter is now out of the local party hands and will be taken forward by the regional party structure.

“We deeply regret that such allegations have had cause to be made, and the local party will fully support the process to its conclusion.”

The Lib Dems’ national headquarters did not respond to the A&T’s request for comment.

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