Suffield Park councillor Nigel Pearce defects from Conservatives to Liberal Democrats in North Norfolk

Nigel Pearce, who has quit the Conservatives and joined the Liberal Democrats on NNDC.
Picture: ANT

Nigel Pearce, who has quit the Conservatives and joined the Liberal Democrats on NNDC. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

North Norfolk's Conservatives have been hit by the defection of one of their councillors to the Liberal Democrats.

Nigel Pearce, Conservative councillor for Suffield Park ward (Cromer) announced the move today, saying he could 'no longer reconcile' himself to the policies being implemented by the ruling group.

He said: 'After much thought and personal agonising, I have decided to join the Liberal Democrats. After many years of loyal service to the Conservative Party both as a councillor and a researcher, I can no longer reconcile myself to the policies being implemented by the ruling group on North Norfolk District Council.​'

He added: 'In my opinion, the problems with the current administration stem from the cabinet system where the decisions of the council are made by a very small group.

'This leaves back-bench councillors at a disadvantage when we try to work for the best interests of local residents. There have been several occasions where the best people for the job have been replaced simply because they dared to question the administration.'

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Liberal Democrat leader on the cCouncil Sarah Butikofer said: 'I am delighted to welcome Nigel to our team. Coming so soon after councillor Perry-Warnes left the Conservative group to sit as an independent, it is clear that there is great discontent within the Conservative group on the district council.'

In June Georgie Perry-Warnes, from Corpusty and Saxthorpe ward, left the Conservatives to become an independent member, citing similar concerns about the party's leadership.

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Mr Pearce's move does not affect the political balance on NNDC, with the Conservatives still having 30 out of 48 seats.

North Norfolk's Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb said: 'Nigel is hugely welcome in the Liberal Democrats. His decision is very significant. Following on from our win here in the General Election, this is an enormous boost.

'It is incredibly important that we all fight for good local services and an effective and efficient District Council.'

Commenting on Nigel Pearce's decision, North Norfolk district council conservative leader, Tom Fitzpatrick, said: 'I think it's a different conversation to have with Nigel further down the line.

'Cromer, including Suffield Park ward, will go down from four council seats to three in 2019. I'm afraid I think Nigel was aware it was highly unlikely he would be reselected as a Conservative candidate.

'I am confident he will fit in well with the Liberal Democrats, and I wish him luck in furthering his political ambitions.'

He added that, due to the downsizing of the council, he believes others might consider doing the same thing as Mr Pearce.

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