Chairman defects over lack of trust

PUBLISHED: 07:41 15 June 2006 | UPDATED: 09:27 24 May 2010

Cllr Roz Willis.

Cllr Roz Willis.

THE chairman of North Somerset Council has switched from the Liberal Democrats to the Conservatives. Cllr Roz Willis stunned the ruling Lib Dems on Monday when she announced she would 'cross the floor' to become a Tory. Nailsea councillor Bob Coleman has

THE chairman of North Somerset Council has switched from the Liberal Democrats to the Conservatives. Cllr Roz Willis stunned the ruling Lib Dems on Monday when she announced she would 'cross the floor' to become a Tory. Nailsea councillor Bob Coleman has also switched from being an independent to join the Tories so the Conservatives now have a 25-23 seat majority over their rivals.In a letter to the council's chief executive, Graham Turner, Cllr Willis wrote: "I can no longer work with the Liberal Democrat group. Both nationally and locally, I do not trust that decisions are being made with due process of care and have great concerns about the direction being followed."Cllr Willis represents the Milton and Old Worle ward.Liberal Democrat chiefs reacted angrily to the announcement, saying it is connected to their policy of slashing £80,000 from the chairman's budget and called for her resignation.The cutbacks have seen the chairman's chauffeur-driven limousine and personal assistant chopped.Council leader Cllr Alan Hockridge attacked Cllr Willis in a statement read out before an executive meeting on Tuesday and labelled her 'a political pawn'.He said: "Her decision to defect seems to have no political or philosophical basis whatsoever. Indeed, only recently Cllr Willis sought re-approval as a Liberal Democrat candidate for the next election."By her own admission, Cllr Willis has grand designs to spend hard-earned taxpayers' money on gestures that would do more for the benefit of the office holder than for the people we serve. We will continue to fight for savings where others plot for extravagance."I trust Cllr Willis will now do the honourable thing and resign her seat in order to test her change of party with the people who elected her."Responding after the meeting, Cllr Willis said: "The personal attack on me in the executive meeting could almost be classed as slander and I had no opportunity to speak back. "In my opening address as chairman, I said I was prepared to fund the role out of my own pocket and was quite happy to do without a chauffeur and personal assistant. I even drove myself to functions. "I will remain unbiased as chairman and continue to work for the people of my ward."Councillor Willis has refused to resign and will not call a by-election and re-stand as a Conservative. The Weston & Somerset Mercury understands that following Cllr Hockridge's statement, a referral is being made to the Standards Board of England by Cllr Carl Francis-Pester.The complaint will ask the board to investigate a claim that some of the allegations contained in the speech brought the position of council leader into disrepute.

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