Second councillor quits Liberal Democrat group and joins Conservatives
- Credit: Archant
A second member has quit the Liberal Democrat group on a Norfolk council, citing concerns over an “expensive management restructure”.
Jolanda Stenton, North Norfolk district councillor for Briston, has quit the Lib Dem group to join the Conservatives.
Her move follows fellow ex-Lib Dem councillor Nigel Pearce’s defection to the Conservative group over the summer, after being forced to apologise for an outburst in a Zoom meeting, during which he used inapproriate language towards a female councillor.
And the news comes in the wake of further controversy at the Lib Dem run council, including a police investigation into alleged financial crime involving a £1,000-a-day contract being awarded to a consultant and the failure of the council to publish a member’s list of interests for almost a year.
Ms Stenton said: “I’ve found it increasingly difficult to identify with the Lib Dems, ever since the Brexit referendum result which the party still refuses to accept.
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“I have been very concerned about the wisdom of conducting an expensive management restructuring, in the middle of a pandemic, when there are far more important priorities.”
Ms Stenton, who was first elected to NNDC in May 2019, added: “I think it’s a waste of public money.
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“Duncan Baker is an excellent, hard-working MP, and I would like to support him in his work.”
Christopher Cushing, leader of the Conservative group at NNDC, said: “I’m delighted to welcome Jolanda to the Conservatives.
“It is clear that an increasing number of Liberal Democrats share our concerns about the way the council is being run, and news of an ongoing police investigation into alleged financial crime has done little to boost confidence in the administration’s competence.
“I am sure we will see more resignations in months to come.”
Duncan Baker, Conservative MP for North Norfolk, said: “I know Jolanda works incredibly hard for residents and businesses in Briston, and I am pleased to welcome her to the Conservative group.”
Council leader Sarah Butikofer said: “It is disappointing that Ms Stenton has decided to change allegiance, but we wish her well for the future.
“The Liberal Democrat-led council continues to deliver for the people of north Norfolk. It will not be lost on most residents that working in partnership with them, we have so far kept our community one of the safest in the country, and this again has to be our top priority at the moment.
“Despite the extreme challenges we have been facing the council has delivered on all its corporate priorities and we will continue to do so.”
She added: “Mr Cushing is aware that Cambridgeshire Police have issued a statement saying the investigation being carried out following an allegation of criminal financial irregularity within NNDC has not identified any criminality to date. The police investigation is now nearing its conclusion.”