Green leader at Norfolk County Council defects to Conservatives

The leader of the Green group at Norfolk County Council has defected to the Conservatives, saying he had found himself increasingly isolated in his former party.

Philip Hardy, who was elected to serve Norwich's Thorpe Hamlet division in 2009, said it has been a 'very difficult decision' to make the switch to the ruling Tory group at County Hall.

But he said he had increasingly found himself more in tune with the policies and actions of the Conservative Party.

He said: 'This has been a very difficult decision to make but I feel it is the right one for me. I've found myself alone on a growing number of issues of late within the Green Party.

'For instance, I have strongly supported the need for a credible deficit reduction plan since the US lost their triple A credit rating. This has been further reinforced by anxieties over the French economy in the last few weeks.

'I share David Cameron's vision for a modernised NHS, which I believe will make it fit for the 21st century and I was proud when he inspired the international community to intervene in Libya earlier this year.'

Mr Hardy is currently a member of Norfolk Police Authority and the council's planning committee - which will have to make a decision on the controversial incinerator at King's Lynn if the scheme secures PFI funding.

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He has recently worked with the Conservative administration on an idea for the council to create an energy services company.

He added: 'I wish the Norwich Greens well and I will of course continue to represent everyone within my division on any issues or council-related queries raised with me.'

Mr Hardy's switch swells the Conservative group at Norfolk County Council to 63 members - the largest any political party has achieved in Norfolk's history. He is the third councillor to head over to the Conservatives in 2011, following the defections of Liberal Democrat councillors Paul Rice (Smallburgh South) and David Callaby (Fakenham).

Following those defections, Mr Hardy said, on the Norwich Green Party website, that those defections showed why the Greens, not the Liberal Democrats, were the most effective alternative at County Hall.

Derrick Murphy, leader of Norfolk County Council hailed Mr Hardy's move as a 'major coup'. He said: 'Philip is a fantastic councillor who has already managed to make Norfolk a better place through his work on the Energy Services Company amongst other projects.

'He is a dynamic, passionate and hard working individual and I am confident he will make an excellent contribution to the Conservative Group at County Hall.

'We have worked out that he is the seventh most senior Green Party politician in the UK and one of the first group leaders in local government to join another political group.'

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