Tory president speaks out after suspension

A SENIOR member of North Somerset Council says he will fight back against accusations made against him from within his own political party.

Councillor Carl Francis-Pester this week claimed to have been the target of a personal vendetta after being suspended as president of the district’s Conservative Association.

The councillor has also stepped down from his position on the council’s executive while an investigation into ‘serious allegations’ made about him are complete.

It is thought the complaints relate to the association’s campaign mini-bus and Nailsea office, although the accuser’s identity has not been revealed.

Speaking at the press conference – backed by around 20 fellow association members – Cllr Francis-Pester said he was determined to clear his name and take his seat again at the head of the district’s Conservative association.

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He said his party had refused to disclose either the content of the allegations made against him, or the identity of his accuser.

But he vowed to fight to win back his position in the party and stand for re-election in May.

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He said of the accuser: “They have underestimated the determination of members of this association to achieve justice and put themselves back in a good position for the forthcoming elections.

“I have been overwhelmed and amazed to the extent to which people have called me up and offered their support.

“This not only shows the strength of feeling, but the enormous potential to turn this around and pull ourselves back together before the election.”

He added: “I sense that this is a personal vendetta - we have been constantly challenged by a number of individuals and I have heard they want us out.”

Cllr Francis-Pester refused to lead an inquest on who made the complaint.

But he said: “Nigel Ashton appeared to be in correspondence with the executive board of the association before we had the issues raised with us.”

Asked if he would be able to work again with the council leader, he replied he hoped to return to his seat as executive member for environment and asset management on Friday.

However, a meeting of the district’s conservative association’s executive on the same day could change that, he admitted.

In the absence of Cllr Francis-Pester, David Dodd will take charge of the association until the ‘reconstruction of the association is completed’.

A special meeting called for by members following the emergence of the allegations was denied by party bosses.

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