Plymouth Tories disintegrating?

Plymouth councillor quits Conservatives amid ‘bullying’ claim

Carl Eve www.plymouthherald.co.uk 

Plymouth’s Lord Mayor has quit the Conservatives accusing the new leader’s regime of “bullying”, just two days after he was voted into the top job. Councillor Terri Beer departure from the group to go Independent came with a blistering attack on new leader Richard Bingley’s Cabinet.

The long-standing Plympton Erle councillor accused Tory group members of “mentally torturing” ousted leader Nick Kelly, who was toppled on Monday, and said she couldn’t work with “people who have a record of doing some questionable things”.

Cllr Bingley told PlymouthLive tonight he was “mystified by the allegations” and said Cllr Beer was “unhappy that her friends were voted out.” But her resignation is a major blow to the ruling Conservative group, who now find themselves with fewer councillors than Labour in the run-up to the local elections in May

Cllr Beer’s decision to leave the party has – yet again – left the city in a position where the ruling Conservative party has 22 councillors, while Labour have 23 and the Independents rise to 12 members. Hers just the latest in a string of resignations among Tory councillors over recent months.

Cllr Terri Beer, who is Lord Mayor until May, presided over Monday’s full council meeting which saw a no-confidence vote brought by Plymouth Labour and backed by a number of Independent councillors – particularly some who had previously been Conservatives themselves. However, at the close of the meeting, while receiving a number of plaudits and thanks from councillors on all sides, Cllr Beer appeared to have been considering her future.

Taking to Facebook this evening she issued a statement – which appears to have been written on Tuesday March 22 – “which will explain why I am no longer part of the Conservative group in Plymouth.” She noted that she remained “very close friends” with Conservative ward councillor Andrea Loveridge and would continue to “work for our residents.”

She continued: “Having reflected on recent events I have no option but to resign from the Conservative Party and the Local Conservative Group. I cannot continue to be associated with questionable people and bullying under the new leadership.

“I really fear for Plymouth under a cabinet who are lacking in experience and ability. It would not feel right to stay in a group with people who have a record of doing some questionable things.

“The Conservatives locally have been run into the ground by unelected chair persons not from South West Devon. Brilliant and well experienced people have been denied the opportunity to serve communities because their face didn’t fit or they failed to to follow the chairperson’s misguided instructions.

“Cllr Kelly has over the last two years been mentally tortured by certain members all of whom need to bow their heads in shame. It hasn’t just stopped at Cllr Kelly but others in the Conservative group have also suffered. If only the public had the full story.

“As from today I will be the first Independent Councillor to be Lord Mayor and will complete my term as just that. In the last 11 months I have dedicated myself to serving the City and being an Ambassador which is why I swore an oath at last year’s Lord Mayors Choosing.

“Cllr Nick Kelly has always been very supportive of me and my decisions alongside Cllr Tudor Evans and several members of the opposition for which I thank them. At yesterday’s full council Cllr Kelly praised me for the work I have done to date in my role as Lord Mayor and I acknowledge his kind words and that of Cllr Evans.

“This last 11 months I have had everything thrown at me from tragic incidents in the City to joyous events and have carried this out with dignity. The residents in Plympton Erle who know me so well will understand and accept the family pressures I have faced through family illness.

“I will continue to serve Plympton Erle residents as I have for the last 15 years following my year as Lord Mayor as an Independent.”

In reply, Cllr Bingley told PlymouthLive: “I and my colleagues are mystified by the allegations of bulling, because we’ve not had any dialogue [with Cllr Beer] since Monday because Cllr Beer was clearly unhappy that her friends were voted out of office. Nevertheless, I personally wish her well in the future and look forward to taking this opportunity to bring in fresh new blood into the Conservative party and the council chamber.”

In February the Conservative group saw the ousting of Cllr David Downie after he was deselected by the Conservative Moor View Association – rather than the Conservative Councillor Group. The previous month the Conservative Group saw the resignation of Cllr Stephen Hulme.

Last October Moor View’s Shannon Burden waved goodbye to the Conservative group and joined the Independents, while in November Conservative councillor Nigel Churchill walked away from his group citing “unacceptable” conduct of senior members.