Health issues force Lancaster city councillor to take back seat

Labour city councillor Erica Lewis is taking a period of leave from some of her council duties due to an ongoing health condition.

By Gayle Rouncivell
Wednesday, 6th July 2022, 10:14 am
Updated Wednesday, 6th July 2022, 10:15 am

Coun Jason Wood will stand in for the former council leader as cabinet member for corporate services, but Coun Lewis will remain as Labour group leader.The John O’Gaunt ward councillor said she had been unwell through part of the Covid pandemic and has undergone numerous tests."The symptoms span both mind and body and after several years of tests and exploration we are clearer on what it isn't than what it is," she said."Late last year, I received a diagnosis of Generalised Anxiety Disorder and the medical advice to do less but not do nothing."I stepped back from some community sector roles and actively tried to do less, but tried to keep going at work and the councils."I have a working theory that each time I change medication or behaviour, it gives some ease, but then because we are addressing symptoms not the cause, the symptoms emerge again to remind me to keep working on it."Emotional dysregulation is perhaps the most obvious of my symptoms - having emotions that are too big for the trigger - and I spoke about this at the annual meeting of the city council."Unfortunately, rather than this declaration being met with understanding, one political party set out to deliberately misrepresent the distress I was manifesting, which only makes it worse."Councillors are not employees and we have no right to sick leave but when I was the city council leader I always accommodated requests for periods of leave."I was therefore disappointed that when I asked for a period of leave from the city council cabinet to be told it must be for at least six months and that the response indicated no acceptance of my mental health condition."Coun Lewis said that continuing with medical advice to 'do less but not do nothing', Coun Jason Wood will act as the cabinet member for corporate services, while Coun Anne Whitehead has also been elected as deputy leader of the Labour group following the recent passing of Coun Janice Hanson.Coun Lewis is remaining as leader of Lancaster Labour Group but is asking colleagues to do more where possible.She is also currently on a period of sick leave from her academic job at the University of Cumbria and is aiming to make this a period of complete rest."I hope to return to both academic and council positions as I am well and able," she added."I’m grateful for the support many have offered including colleagues and senior managers at work, the NHS (even during the height of the pandemic), council officers and a cross-party group of council colleagues."

Coun Lewis was elected to Lancaster City Council and became the new leader in May 2019. She had previously been elected to Lancashire County Council in May 2017.

Before that she worked in the Australian Public Service, as well as being a staffer for both Australian and UK Labour politicians.

Coun Erica Lewis.