STAFFORDSHIRE: Four independent councillors join Tory group
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Four independent councillors on Newcastle-Under-Lyme Borough Council, including the borough mayor, have crossed the floor to join the Conservative benches.
The decision means the Conservatives now hold an outright majority for the first time since the 1970s. The council has been in no overall control since 2015.
The four councillors include mayor Ken Owen along with Bert Proctor, Gary White and Simon White.
Both Bert Proctor and Simon White were previously members of the borough’s Labour group.
Council leader Simon Tagg said: “I’m really pleased about it, I’ve known all of these councillors for many years, they’ve been on the council for many years.”
He cited his administration’s stance on Whalley’s Quarry and the Conservative party’s involvement in regeneration projects in the area being behind why the four councillors joined.
Opposition leader Cllr Mike Stubbs commented: “Politics is about choices, and it was only a matter of time before the ‘independents’ signed up as fully fledged Tories.”
He said: “They have consistently voted for every cut, every closure and every tax rise proposed by Newcastle’s Tory-run council.”
Cllr Stubbs added: “The Labour Party will continue to support our borough as best we can by championing fairness, low council tax and protecting our vital green spaces.”
The Conservatives now hold 23 of the 44 seats on the council, ahead of the Knutton by-election which will take place on 25th November.
Labour hold 18 seats, which the Lib Dems hold one, and there is one vacant seat.
What the councillors had to say on their decision…
Cllr Bert Proctor said: “I think the Conservative administration of the last four years have carried the council forward at a time when we’ve been experiencing some very difficult times with Covid-19 and other issues.
“I think they’re at the forefront in revitalising the town centre and I think it’s the right decision to make at this moment in time.”
He said the independent councillors had already been supporting the Conservatives, which he feels offers the best outcomes for the residents he represents.
He said he hadn’t yet decided whether he’d be standing in May’s elections, but that he would stand for the Conservatives if he did.
Cllr Gary White said: “We’ve been supporting the Tory administration for four years now, and over that time we’ve seen them deliver on their promises.
“Very recently we’ve seen the successful achievement of £50m worth of government grant money for the borough, through the town deal bid and future high streets funds, which is great news.”
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in the Conservative administration.”
He said he will stand at the upcoming election as a Conservative candidate.
Cllr Simon White said: “By joining the Conservatives we can get more or our community and even more to sustain everything within the borough as well.”
He added: “We get on, in whatever party we’re actually in – we talk between ourselves.
He said he will stand as a Conservative candidate at the election in May.
Mayor, Cllr Ken Owen said: “It was the right decision for me personally and the borough as a whole.
“The Conservatives are showing strong leadership and direction on big issues such as with the stink from Walleys Quarry and the regeneration of our town.”
When asked if he’d be standing for the Conservative party in the May 2022 election, he said “I don’t really have an answer to that, it’s six months away.”
Words: Richard Price, Local Democracy Reporter
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