Plymouth Conservatives lose another councillor
Tory councillors are being left to defend “unpleasant” budget decisions made by “a collective few”, says Ham ward councillor Stephen Hulme who has quit the Conservative group
Carl Eve www.plymouthherald.co.uk
Plymouth City Council is once again on a political knife edge as yet another Conservative councillor has chosen to quit the group and go independent.
Cllr Stephen Hulme, who represents residents of Ham ward, took to his Facebook page last night to break the news to his constituents, saying “I have sadly had to leave the colour blue. “I am solely the voice of Ham ward and our magnificent Ocean City of Plymouth. You have the power of your votes, use it wisely”.
This follows hot on the heels of recent developments at the Conservative-led council – including the suspension of a Conservative councillor Maddi Bridgeman over alleged complaints which are being investigated, the resignations of two Conservative councillors who moved to Gloucester, and two by-elections for the vacated wards of Moor View and Plympton Chaddlewood on January 12, 2023.
As a result of the latest resignation, the council split is now 24 councillors apiece for the Conservatives and Labour, with the balance of power now sitting with the Independent group, two Green councillors and two independent councillors. The council was in this position in January this year with no single party holding the majority after Cllr Hulme left the Conservative group. However, this situation lasted mere hours after the Conservative group unexpectedly lifted the suspension it had placed on the then leader Nick Kelly – over comments he is alleged to have made during an interview with ITV, putting the Tories back as the majority party.
Cllr Hulme was elected for the Conservatives in May 2021 with a majority of just 285, snatching the seat from Labour. However, he left the Conservative group in January 2022 without giving exact reasons for his departure, saying only that it had been “a difficult journey since May 2021 for me as a new elected Conservative councillor”. He said at the time that he would sit as an independent councillor “holding Conservative values”.
He re-joined the Conservative group in May this year along with four other former Conservatives. The return of the five was purported to be down to the new leader of the council, Conservative group leader Richard Bingley.
At the time he won praise from Johnny Mercer, Plymouth Moor View MP who said Cllr Bingley had brought “stability” back to the Conservative group. Mr Mercer went on to state that it was “fundamental to my politics that politicians spend less time arguing amongst themselves and more time focused on delivering for the brilliant people of our city who deserve first-class leadership.”
However, in a statement released last night to PlymouthLive, councillor Stephen Hulme said: “Of late I have received many emails from the electorate, on the publication of the new plans on Armada Way, the diminishing bus services and removal of bus shelters, the increasing parking charges, the introduction of garden waste charges and the implementation of rubble charges and alike at the local tips, the two by-elections being actioned in January 2023 at a cost of around £50,000 or more to the council taxpayer.
“I get democracy – but with the cost of living crises, perhaps waiting till 2023 May would be more cost-effective to the public purse. It seems a collective few make decisions leaving others to defend the unpleasant decision, which I have found impossible.”
Cllr Hulme still has 15 months left of his council term before he must face the re-election process and he has said he will remain an independent until then. He claimed: “I don’t think the council listens to the people of Plymouth. They need to listen to the people of Plymouth.”