Now Tories are in disarray as cabinet member and a councillor both resign

Olympian Louis Smith

And another Conservative councillor has also stood down, citing ‘personal reasons’.

Cllr Matt Bailey, who was the head of Environment at TWBC and represents Paddock Wood West, has left the Conservative party and informed the Council he is now representing his ward as an independent councillor.

On Tuesday January 25, Cllr Bailey said: “Following the stream of shocking headlines from Downing Street and Westminster and given that most of the work we do on the borough council is non-political in nature, I feel I will be better able to represent local residents if free from any association with the current government.

 “Many people in our borough, regardless of which way they vote, feel there’s a problem with the culture in Downing Street and Parliament that urgently needs to be addressed.

“This has been going on for years and isn’t about one person or political party.

“The last Labour government broke international law over Iraq, presided over the cash-for-honours scandal and had five MPs jailed for expenses fraud. So they’re part of the same problem.”

Cllr Bailey’s resignation follows the latest revelations that have come from Downing Street, this time involving the PM who is said to have celebrated his birthday with a cake and 30 others in June 2020.

It comes after a series of allegations about parties at Number 10 that are currently being investigated by civil servant Sue Gray.

It also comes after another Conservative councillor stood down from TWBC last week. Bill Hills, who also represents Paddock Wood West told the Times he has left the Council for ‘personal reasons’.

His resignation took immediate effect at the Council from last Thursday [January 20] and will mean Mr Hills will no longer be a councillor.

The two resignations will not mean more seats will have to be contested in May’s local elections, however, as Cllr Bailey is not up for election until 2023 and the other Paddock Wood [West] seat was won in a by-election with the term was set to expire in May anyway.

But both resignations will come as a blow for the Conservatives, though, as the Tories are currently running the council as a minority party after it fell to No Overall Control last year.

The Tories now only have 21 councillors in the 48-seat chamber – four short of a majority.

The Lib Dems who also had a member quit to become an independent earlier this month [see Times front page, January 19], now have 12 councillors, the Alliance party six, Labour five and there are two independents.

May’s local elections could see the Conservative group ousted from running the Council if its number of elected members falls below 16 as opposition councillors could call for a vote of no confidence in Leader Tom Dawlings and his cabinet. Such a move would need a two-thirds [32 votes] majority to pass.

There are 16 seats scheduled to be contested in the local elections set for May 5.

The Conservative Leader of the Council, Tom Dawlings, said it was ‘frustrating’ that councillors have left the party over national issues, adding: “I’m a local politician so have no influence over what happens in Downing Street.

“It is frustrating when councillors leave because of national issues, especially when there is so much good going on in the town, such as the opening of the Amelia, the Cinema Site news and the Town Hall co-working project.

“What I would say is that I am responsible for the Council and throughout the pandemic Tunbridge Wells Borough Council worked successfully from home and performed exceptionally throughout the crisis.”



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