A Conservative councillor has resigned from the party and become an independent after what she called ‘irregularities’ in the candidate selection process for councillors.
Now, a Conservative Party official has been drafted in to ensure rules are adhered to at the Gedling association.
A spokesman for Gedling Conservatives said they were ‘disappointed’ that the councillor had left, but that they are still on the lookout for ‘enthusiastic and hardworking candidates across the borough for next year’s local elections.’
The row emerged after the former Conservative councillor for the Plains ward, Sarah Hewson, left the party and decided to serve as an independent councillor over the way she says the selection process was run.
Councillor Hewson said: “This is not a decision that I have taken lightly, but came after months of reflection and disappointment in the conduct within the local party.
“When I got to the point of a lost sense of pride in the local party, then sadly there was no alternative for me but to leave.
“There were a number of issues that concerned me over time.”
A Gedling Conservatives Spokesman said: “Gedling Conservatives are currently selecting enthusiastic and hardworking candidates across the borough for next year’s local elections
“Although disappointed Councillor Hewson decided to withdraw from this process and resign from the party, we wish her well and the very best with future endeavours.
“A Conservative-run Gedling would deliver on the issues which really matter to local communities including making sure the voices of residents are heard over any new developments.”
Gedling Borough Council has been run by the Labour party since 2011.
Tom Butcher is a member of the Gedling Conservatives, and a former county and district councillor, as well as being a former vice chairman of the party. He is also a former senior police officer.
He said: “It seems to have gone back to where it was a few years ago.
“I’m really upset because I thought we had got the association onto a good footing at least.
“I’m just peed off to see all this raising its head again. It breaks your heart.
“I just want to get the Conservative party back on its feet.”
Jeff Richardson is a member of the party. Speaking about sending in a party official he said: “It’s highly unusual. It should be completely open.”
The leader of the Conservatives at Gedling Borough Council is Councillor Chris Barnfather, who represents the Newstead Abbey ward.
He said: “I feel that the party did everything it could to accommodate Councillor Hewson, I’m not sure what more the party could have done because we bent over backwards.
“I genuinely wish her well, I’m always sorry when anyone leaves the party, and especially when they have contributed to it, but if councillor Hewson is happier to continue as an independent then so be it.”
The now-independent Councillor Hewson said: “This does not fit with Theresa May’s recent talk about the importance of transparency in the party.
“The world of politics carries a lot of important responsibilities – we are not talking about a tiddlywinks society, or a knitting club, so it’s very disheartening when some people in it behave unethically and spoil it for others.
“However, on a more positive note I am very much looking forward to being able to focus on the job in hand as Gedling Borough Council’s sole independent councillor, for the Plains ward.
“The needs of my constituents are far more important than those of any political party and I will now have more time to dedicate to them without the distraction of party obligations.
“As an independent councillor it’s more about what you can do for your constituents, rather than promoting a political party whose party line may not necessarily be in line with the needs of the residents.
“Other than that, my role remains the same at Gedling Borough Council, and it’s business as usual.”