At the election on May 7th the electors of Tendring District Council elected 22 UKIP councillors. The complete result was:
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That left the Conservatives as the largest party, without overall control.
The UKIP group elected Mick Skeels as our group leader and he presented us with a proposal to join a “Grand Alliance”. That was voted down by the UKIP group. There are significant differences between UKIP and the Conservatives in terms of local policy. Not least on planning, where the last Conservative administration presented a plan for the full 12,00 houses.
It was only just before the council meeting on 26th May that it became clear that nine councillors had formed a new group called “Tendring UKIP”. They sat with the Conservatives, voting against the proposal of the UKIP councillor Mary Newton as Deputy Chairman. That seems to me to have been an error.
Today I am able to confirm that four have returned to UKIP and the other five have been suspended from the party. I would like it to have been possible for a way to be found to bring all nine renegades back into the UKIP fold. I wish electors to know that when they vote UKIP, they get UKIP. However, despite the mediation of regional UKIP officers that is not what has happened. Indeed, my understanding is that those who have not come back, did not wish to come back. How they can explain that to their constituents, is not clear to me.
I realise that the actions of the these nine councillors has caused considerable anger amongst UKIP supporters. Indeed, I have been personally lobbied to support the removal of all nine from the party. However, those returning are sincere in wanting to support the UKIP agenda on which they were elected and have had the courage to admit they made a mistake. We should be gracious enough to accept that and move on to the business of delivering for our constituents.
There is a further side to this, in that Councillor Stock was elected a leader of the council on 26th May. He has since announced his cabinet, which includes two renegade UKIP councillors. The six independent councillors also sit with the Conservatives and two of them have cabinet positions. This has been done whilst preserving six cabinet places for conservative councillors by increasing the size of the cabinet from seven to ten members. Given that each post comes with a payment of around £11,000 pa, the extra cost of this to the residents of Tendring District, over the four years of this council, is around £140,000. I wish to be generous, but I know of no good reason for spending money in this way.
To add insult to injury the previous holder of the Leisure Portfolio, who was re-elected on May 7th, was Cllr Platt. Mark is widely respected for the work he did, including bringing the Aviva Women’s Tour cycling to Tendring, whereas Cllr Skeels (formerly UKIP) has no evident knowledge or expertise in this area.