Councillor Turner to continue to lead council following calls for dismissal
PUBLISHED: 12:53 10 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:53 10 October 2018
A council leader who broke away from the Tory party following months of turmoil has avoided being axed.
Cllr David Turner (Ind) faced down a vote of no confidence and will continue to lead Gravesham Borough Council despite a rallying call for his dismissal from his former party.
This comes months after he and a group of his colleagues left the Conservative party to set up an independent splinter group dubbed the Gravesham Independent Conservatives.
This move came after Cllr Turner and his ally Cllr Harold Craske were rejected as candidates for the next election in May and deputy leader Cllr John Knight (Ind) was suspended following accusations of assaulting county councillor Bryan Sweetland.
All three claim they have been bullied by the Gravesham Conservative Association (GCA).
The new leader of the Conservatives, Cllr Leslie Hills, and former cabinet member Cllr Jordan Meade (Con) launched the motion for a vote of no confidence but their attempt to oust the leader was thwarted as Labour abstained from voting.
Labour leader John Burden said: “This whole thing is nasty and there’s a bad feeling in this council.
“We don’t want to be any part of it so the Labour party are abstaining.
“The independent Conservatives seems to be the Conservatives of the old that worked with the community, the parties and the organisations to make Gravesham a better place.
“We are going to leave the Conservative group to take the vote and make the decision and sort it out among themselves.
“We need to work together as a community for the people of Gravesham and this is not going to happen if we are all fighting each other.”
Cllr Burden added his intentions to “take over” the council following elections in May.
During the meeting, Cllr Burden sided with the independents, Cllr Turner and Cllr John Knight, to urge his colleagues to complete mandatory bullying training following two months of turmoil.
Councillors agreed to accept the ACAS definition of bullying as “any unwanted behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated, degraded, humiliated or offended.”
However, they rejected an amendment by Cllr Leslie Hills (Con) to include the “use of force to aggressively dominate others” in the description and remove “mandatory” from the motion.
Among the 33 councillors who opposed the amendment were arguments these additions were “absurd” as the use of violence is considered a criminal offence.
Despite the rift, Cllr Turner will lead the council with 11 other defectors until the elections next May, while the main Conservative group continue with its 12 members. Labour has 20 councillors.
Cllr Turner said: “I have been on the council for just over 42 years and until last year everybody behaved in a respectful way with each other.
“Everybody seems appalled at all of this and I think that’s very sad.
“We are here to serve the residents of Gravesham, we are not here to have little fights amongst ourselves.
“We can have disagreements and we can express those disagreements but the number one issue is for us to go out and do our best for our residents, the residents who elected us.”
Cllr Turner added his opponents had an “interesting interpretation” of who should be “worthy of running the council” as they claim the leader of the largest group should lead, which would be the Labour party.
He added leaving the Conservative party was “the honourable thing to do” after he was deselected as a candidate for the next election.
The new leader of the conservative group backed by GCA, Cllr Leslie Hills said: “My group has no pleasure in bringing this motion as just a few weeks ago these people were our colleagues and were our friends.
“But the leader decided to have a press conference with the intention to do the maximum damage to the Conservative party.
“With all the damage Cllr Turner is willing to do to his own party, this is why he is unfit to be leader and a disgrace to this council.
“This vote is to make it clear the Conservative party will not play any part of this unelected, renegade group.
“We have now got a lame duck for a council because Cllr Turner threw his toys out of the pram.”