Norfolk County Councillor defects from Lib Dems to Conservatives
The ranks of the controlling Conservative group at Norfolk County Council have been swelled further, after a Liberal Democrat defected because of his unhappiness with the direction his party was heading.
Paul Rice, who was elected to serve South Smallburgh in 2009, announced today that he was joining the Conservatives, within minutes of the conclusion of a meeting of Norfolk County Council.
Mr Rice said he had much the switch 'after much consideration and deliberation'.
In a statement, he said: 'This decision has not been made lightly. Over the past months I have felt uncomfortable with many decisions made within the Lib Dem party nationally and locally.
'I am still committed to carry out my role as county councillor on behalf of my constituents to the best of my ability and I will continue to meet the challenges that both this county and our country face.'
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But he elaborated further when he said his decision was motivated more by the national issues, rather than issues in Norfolk. He said: 'I cannot go with some of the policies coming out of Cowley Street. I have strong views on national policy and I have got to say I believe I will feel more comfortable working with the Conservative group. I think they have got the bottle to get on with things.'
He said one of his concerns was an 'open door' policy when it comes to immigration and said he felt the Conservatives, who have pledged a tough stance on net immigration. were going about that issue in right way.
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Mr Rice added he was aware he might get a rough ride from some of his constituents, but said he hoped they could see past political allegiance and recognise his commitment to campaigning on their behalf.
He added: 'I'm a member of the coastguard and one of the first campaigns I want to do as a Conservative is to fight to keep the service in Yarmouth. I'll be starting up a petition shortly.'
Derrick Murphy, leader of Norfolk County Council, said he was delighted to welcome Mr Rice into the Conservative group.
He said: 'I am really pleased Paul is joining us. If you are an effective councillor then that is what people value ahead of political affiliation and I know Paul is an effective councillor.
'I know what he is doing is not easy and full marks to him for having the courage and convictions to do it. He has talked to a lot of people to reach this decision and there are times in life when you have to do what you believe is right.
'Having an energy from waste plant four miles from my house is the right thing to do if that is the right thing for Norfolk.
'If it was in Great Yarmouth my life would have been easier, but I had to go with what's right and and Paul is doing what he believes to be right.
'He knows I have rated him as a county councillor and I'm delighted he's joining us.'
Originally from Essex, Mr Rice has lived in Norfolk for more than 12 years. He lives in Potter Heigham and runs the Model Landscape Co at Wroxham Barns, a specialist model shop.
The South Smallburgh division includes Barton Turf, Brumstead, Catfield, East Ruston, Hickling, Horsey, Ingham, Lessingham, Ludham, Neatishead, Potter Heigham, Sea Palling and Horning.
Mr Rice won the 2009 election in South Smallburgh with 1,283 votes - 139 more than Conservative candidate Lorraine West.
It is believed the last county councillor to defect was Russell Grimmer, who represented the Heigham ward and switched from Labour to the Conservatives in 1979.