Former council leader suspended from Tory group

The former Conservative leader of Plymouth City Council has been suspended by his own group following “several serious and different complaints and allegations” it has been revealed tonight.

Local Tory turmoil – Owl

Carl Eve

In reply, Cllr Nick Kelly has claimed that the local Tory party had “deemed that I am not fit to represent the party at the next local election in May 2023.”

Nick Kelly was ousted as leader of the council in March this year following a vote of no confidence which was instigated by Labour councillors, but backed by three Independents – all ex-Conservative councillors. He had initially become leader of the council after the Conservative group won the largest number of seats in the May 2021 elections.

However, following several suspensions and resignations, the Tories ended up on a knife-edge with the same number of councillors as the Labour group. Following his removal, Conservative councillors voted for Cllr Richard Bingley to take over the role as leader not just of the group, but of the entire council.

Cllr Kelly’s brief tenure had become mired in controversy over allegations he made inappropriate comments following the murder of Bobbi-Anne McLeod. As a result he was suspended from the group as an inquiry was held. However, following the resignation of one of his colleagues from the Conservative group to become an Independent – leading to the Conservative and Labour holding the same number of seats – his suspension was suddenly lifted, granting the Tories a majority again.

Cllr Kelly has since contested that his comments were “insensitive and arrogant” and has claimed his words were used out of context by parts of the media, leading him to later announce during his final speech as leader of the council that there was “legal action being taken on the Bobbi-Anne McLeod comments”.

His departure saw some Conservatives quit the group, with Plympton Erle councillor and former Lord Mayor Terri Beer, accuse the new leader’s regime of bullying. She went on to claim that Cllr Kelly was “mentally tortured” some some Tory group members.

This came as recordings Tory council leader Richard Bingley’s foul-mouthed attack on colleagues was leaked to the public. In the recordings – understood to have been made weeks before the no-confidence vote – he described his predecessor as a “weak, two-faced git” telling the caller “he won’t be leader in May [2022]”.

Tonight, a spokesperson for the Plymouth Conservative Group stated: “Following several serious and different complaints and allegations made formally to our Group Executive team, we can confirm that Councillor Nick Kelly (Compton Ward) has been suspended from Plymouth City Council Conservative Group, pending all necessary investigations.

“A further formal statement will be made by our Group Executive following the conclusion of these investigations.”

On his Facebook page tonight Cllr Nick Kelly wrote to the residents and businesses of Compton ward, stating: “I wish to inform you that following an Approvals Panel selection today, I am extremely disappointed that the local Conservative Party have deemed that I am not fit to represent the party at the next local election in May 2023.

“I shall continue to work diligently for your benefit , as I have, since being first elected as a City Councillor in 2015. Thank you for your past and continued support.

“I am devastated by this decision, as it has been a huge honour to represent my home city as a Councillor, Deputy Lord Mayor and Leader over the past seven years. I shall issue a further statement in due course.”

Tonight, Cllr Beer took to Twitter to claim: “I have never seen such bullying that Cllr Nick Kelly has endured. It’s been terrible.”