AN INFLUENTIAL union boss has recommended the Labour Party curtails its planned timetable for the selection of city councillors for next year’s local elections.

In a private letter to members of the Local Campaign Forum, which is overseeing the reselection process, GMB branch secretary Mark Turner said he was “extremely concerned about the timetable”.

Reselection will begin next month, and a number of sitting candidates are likely to face challenges including from the left wing of the party.

A longer, more drawn-out process would be likely to be to the advantage of newer candidates. It would give them more time to mobilise and build support within the party, while a shorter timetable would be likely to favour sitting councillors.

In the letter, seen by The Argus, Mr Turner even suggested union funding might not be available unless the party heeded his advice.

In the letter, dated January 25, Mr Turner wrote: “I am writing to you on behalf of the GMB as we have been made aware of the proposed selection timetable discussed at December LCF meeting and it being decided to appoint candidates throughout 2018 with a view to complete the process by early December 2018, which is only five months before the elections take place in 2019.

“We are extremely concerned on this timetable to select candidates as we fear it does not give candidates sufficient time to campaign on the manifesto agreed.

“We have agreed that we would make some significant financial resources available for this campaign as well as other resources including office accommodation but our concern today and the reason I am writing to you all is that these resources could be at risk because of not having candidates in place in a reasonable time frame.”

Yesterday Mr Turner told The Argus his letter was not intended as a threat.

He said: “What I couldn’t guarantee was that the funds my organisation at a regional level would want to make available would be available that late in the campaign because there’s a number of other priorities across the region.”

The LCF runs the process to select potential council candidates.

Anyone who wishes to be selected as the Labour candidate in any of the city wards must first put their name forward to the LCF. The Argus understands the deadline for candidates, including sitting councillors, to notify the LCF of their interest is April 3.

The panel plans to have the process wrapped up by July or August, not December as feared by Mr Turner.

The LCF confirms the individual’s party affiliation and that they are a fit and proper person to stand, then that person joins the “panel” and can apply to a ward.

The LCF said: “GMB made some observations on an early draft of the selection timetable, as did a number of members and affiliates, and we updated the timetable on the basis of suggestions made.”