TWO high-profile Tory councillors have turned their back on the party and defected to the English Democrats, branding the current Conservative administration in Peterborough a "dictatorship".
TWO high-profile Tory councillors have turned their back on the party and defected to the English Democrats, branding the current Conservative administration in Peterborough a "dictatorship".Former deputy leader of Peterborough City Council Stephen Goldspink and ex-cabinet member Cllr Graham Murphy made the shock announcement yesterday after becoming disillusioned with the direction the party was heading under the leadership of Cllr Marco Cereste.
They said the group was loading huge costs on people in Peterborough suffering in the recession by splashing out on extra posts and offices.
But today, the council leader shrugged off the move, claiming their “road to Damascus conversion” had come about because they had lost their cabinet jobs.
He said: “I’m obviously disappointed that they have chosen this route, but it’s amazing they have had this road to Damascus conversion after they got sacked.”
But the councillors rebutted the suggestion their defection to the fringe group was a case of sour grapes.
In May, Cllr Cereste was voted in as the new leader, ousting John Peach. He quickly introduced a cabinet shake-up, leaving the majority of those Tories formerly in the inner circle, out in the cold.
Cllr Goldspink, who represents the East ward, said: “If it was sour grapes, we would have left straight away in May.
“We gave the new regime a chance.
“Our number one reason for doing this is the fact the current party is no longer concerned with the wishes of the people and is pursuing its own agenda.
“People are tightening their belts and cutting back because times are difficult.
“But the council, under Marco Cereste, decided its response is to spend a quarter of a million pounds on complete bureaucracy, such as extra offices.
“Our other reason is that democracy has gone from the group. It is run as a dictatorship. He (Cllr Cereste) said he would be more open and would consult, but the first thing he does is bring in a new structure for the council and he hasn’t consulted anybody.”
Cllr Murphy, who represents Orton Longueville, said: “Debate is being stifled. We have had enough of it. It’s disappointing for us that it’s come to this, but our conscience wouldn’t allow us to continue.”
Cllr Cereste expressed disappointment but said it would not make “one iota” of difference to the party.
He added: “The new neighbourhood councils will be creating more local democracy, which is what they are carping on about.
“Our budget plans are looking to take 17 million out of our back office in efficiency savings, so where they got their ideas from, I’ve got no idea.”
Yesterday, councillors Murphy and Goldspink were unveiled as new members at a reception held by the English Democrats in Doncaster.
They will seek to promote issues including England to be treated as a unified country rather than “bogus and meaningless” regions.