Dorset

Christchurch Tories suspended over merger election row

L-R from top: David Flagg, Paul Hilliard, Nick Geary, David Jones, Lesley Dedman and Margaret Phipps Image copyright Christchurch Borough Council
Image caption (L-R from top) David Flagg, Paul Hilliard, Nick Geary, David Jones, Lesley Dedman and Margaret Phipps have been suspended from their party

Seven Conservative party members have been suspended in Christchurch, and six now intend to stand as independent candidates in May's local elections.

Council leader David Flagg, five other borough councillors and the deputy president of the local Conservative association have all been suspended.

They had opposed Christchurch council's merger with Bournemouth and Poole.

The Conservative Party confirmed "a number of members" had been suspended but gave no further comment.

Mr Flagg, mayor Lesley Dedman, councillors Margaret Phipps, Nick Geary, Paul Hilliard and deputy president of the Christchurch Conservative group Simon McCormack said they would stand against Conservative candidates when elections were held for the newly merged BCP authority in May.

David Jones, who represents West Highcliffe and will not be standing for the newly merged authority, said divisions in the local party stemmed from the battle to save the borough council, which will cease to exist on 1 April.

Following his suspension, he said: "After 38 years in the Conservative Party, serving the people both as a volunteer and as an elected councillor, I view this with surprise and shock.

"I shall, of course, appeal against this suspension. I have always understood that the Conservative Party believes in the principles of natural justice and I demand the right to put my case."

Mr Jones said the suspensions meant a new leader would be elected at the council's last ever meeting on 28 March - just days before the authority is abolished - but the council said its democratic services team had not been informed of any leadership changes.

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