EXCLUSIVE: Long-standing Conservative councillor ‘quits the party less than a week after being re-elected’

Cllr Gul Nawaz

Cllr Gul Nawaz

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A long-standing Conservative councillor is said to have quit the party less than a week after being re-elected onto Peterborough City Council.

Cllr Gul Nawaz, who has been a member for Ravensthorpe since 2002, is now expected to sit as an independent councillor, meaning the Conservatives would no longer have a majority on the council.

Senior Conservative sources claim that Cllr Nawaz has resigned from the party, although Cllr Nawaz himself said he has not yet decided on the matter.

The revelation comes after Prime Minister David Cameron visited Peterborough which was the only council in the country to be gained by the Tories during last week’s local elections.

Mr Cameron told his jubilant supporters in front of the Conservative Club, in Broadway, to celebrate their achievement having gained control of the council.

The resignation by Cllr Nawaz, if confirmed, would leave the Conservatives with 30 of the 60 seats on the council, ahead of Labour with 14, the Liberal Democrats with seven, the Liberal Party with three, Werrington First with three, and UKIP with two.

Council leader and leader of the Conservative group, Cllr John Holdich, said in a statement: “I can confirm that Gul has resigned from the Tory group but intends to remain as an independent councillor for Ravensthorpe.

“I’m disappointed by his decision so soon after winning a big Conservative vote at the election but the council will remain led by a Conservative administration.”

Cllr Holdich, though, did not rule out a return to the party for Cllr Nawaz, adding: “If he wishes to re-think his decision, at this stage I’m more than willing to accommodate him.”

MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson said he had also spoken to Cllr Nawaz and was told he was quitting the party to sit as an independent.

He said: “He had an expectation that having served as deputy mayor, he would serve as mayor.”

The new Mayor of Peterborough, who will replace Cllr John Peach in the role, will be another Conservative in Cllr David Sanders.

Under council rules, the position of mayor is offered to the most senior sitting councillor who wants the position and has not held it before.

Cllr Sanders has been a councillor since 1997, while Cllr Nawaz has been a councillor since 2002.

Cllr Nawaz, who was elected as deputy mayor in 2008, served a one-month jail term in 2002 for falsely claiming £3,000 of housing benefit from the council.

Mr Jackson said: “I supported him when he went to prison. I said he had made a mistake and deserved the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and be elected.

“I feel very sad it’s come to this. You can’t please everyone in politics. I feel very disappointed and slightly let down having backed him for many years.

“He’s got a lot of friends in the Peterborough Conservative Association who backed him through thick and thin.”

Mr Jackson said a number of senior local Conservatives had joined him in trying to persuade Cllr Nawaz to change his mind, but without luck.

He added: “My pleas for cooler heads and to wait a week fell on deaf ears.”

Cllr Nawaz said he had not decided yet whether to quit the Tories to become an independent councillor and that he was still in talks with Cllr Holdich.

He added that he would make a decision before the full council meeting on Monday, May 23.

If Cllr Nawaz does become an independent member, it would make him the only councillor to not be part of a political group.

The member for Ravensthorpe is not up for re-election for another four years after topping the vote in his ward in last Thursday’s election (May 5).

Cllr Sanders has confirmed that he will become the new mayor and said he was looking forward to taking on the prestigious post.

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