Suffolk council couple abandon Conservative party in Waveney

Two Waveney councillors have abandoned the Conservative party and crossed the floor to be become independent.

George and Pat Hawes, who have been Conservative councillors on Waveney District Council for eight years and party members for many years, dramatically resigned from the group this week.

The married councillors declined to give details about their decision, but cited both personal and political reasons. It is understood that the couple, who handed their resignation to the party leader Mark Bee on Sunday, were uncomfortable with what they describe as an 'unpleasant attitude' towards them.

Their decision to quit was due to be made public at Waveney's full council meeting tonight, as the Conservative-led authority debates the 2011/12 buget.

Addressing constituents in an open letter Mr Hawes, who represents the Oulton ward of Lowestoft, said: 'This Sunday (Feb 20) for many reasons, mainly personal and political, I resigned from the Waveney District Council Conservative Group and crossed the floor to sit on the opposition benches as an independent councillor for the remainder of my term of office.

'As a former chairman of the council this is for me a drastic and sad state of affairs.'

Mr Hawes was chairman of the council from 2007 - 2009.

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In a similar letter Mrs Hawes, who represents the Carlton Colville ward of Lowestoft, started how she felt independent councillors could 'use their own judgement on local issues and vote accordingly without being 'under the whip' of any party' and that the strength of politics can 'cloud issues that local people cannot readily accept'.

The joint decision, while unexpected, has not tipped the political balance at Waveney where Conservatives are in overall control with 30 out of 48 seats. It does however mean there are now more independents on the council than Greens or Liberal Democrats - Peter Collecott, who also represents Oulton, is also independent, while Gifford Baxter and Rose Hudson, for Kirkley, are Liberal and Graham

Elliott, for Beccles North, is Green.

Commenting on their departure, Mr Bee said: 'As far as I know Pat and George have left the Conservative group. We are very sorry to see them go and I understand that there's been a clash of personalities within the group - these things are always unfortunate. I'd like to thank them for all their time and work over the years.

• Mr or Mrs Hawes would not confirm or deny whether they will stand as independents in the May election. This is the first year Waveney will see an 'all council' election where all 48 seats are contested.