Gravesham Borough Council under no overall control after Conservative leader and nine fellow councillors defect from party to form new group
PUBLISHED: 11:54 02 August 2018
Gravesham council leader David Turner has this morning (Thursday. August 2) resigned from the Conservative Party to form an independent group along with several fellow councillors.
They are defecting to form the Gravesham Independent Conservatives following the news that all 10 of them had not been approved to stand, or did not wish to stand, in the council elections next May.
Cllr David Turner, Cllr John Knight and former mayor Cllr Harold Craske announced the news at a press conference held at the Gravesham Civic Centre at 10am.
Cllr David Turner said: “Councillors were told they had to attend an interview to be approved to stand in the elections in 2019.
“The three of us went for our interviews and received emails that night simply saying that, following the interviews, we were not approved to stand.”
They each claimed that no reason was given for the decision.
They also said that sustained bullying within the council and the refusal of Gravesham Conservative Association and Conservative Party HQ to investigate “perverse behaviour” had led to their decision.
Cllr Turner added: “I have served the community for 42 years and all I got was an email saying that I was not approved.
“As I’m deemed to be an inappropriate person to represent the party I decided to do the honourable thing and resign from it.
“The three of use have been overwhelmed by the support we have had from fellow councillors - but appalled at the lack of interest by the local Conservative Association and Conservative HQ.”
Speaking about when he received the news that he had not been approved, cllr Harold Craske said: “I do not understand how I have failed in their eyes and neither can any of my constituents in Higham, many fellow councillors from all parties, local organisations and charities and not least the general public.”
He claimed the lack of explanation had cast a “slur” on his character.
“I thought of resigning in protest and causing a by-election but this would be expensive to the council tax payers in the borough and I am not prepared to put them through this expense,” he said.
“Instead I have decided to remain a councillor and sit as an Independent Conservative.
“I will continue to serve my residents and the borough as a whole.”
The news comes amid growing tensions over the prospect of building on the green belt as part of the council’s Local Plan.
The administration had claimed that they had little choice in using some of the land to accommodate space for 2,000 additional homes by 2028.
It is believed the Independent Conservatives will now lead the council as a minority administration.
The council’s current make up now stands as 20 Labour councillors, 14 Conservative councillors and 10 Independent Conservatives