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Tories quit 'dictatorial' ruling group at Babergh

PUBLISHED: 18:55 23 September 2019 | UPDATED: 20:39 23 September 2019

Babergh District Council is a Conservative-run coalition Picture: JASON NOBLE

Babergh District Council is a Conservative-run coalition Picture: JASON NOBLE

Jason Noble

Two Conservative members of Babergh District Council have quit in protest at the way they say the Tory group is being run.

Babergh councillor Margaret Maybury. Picture: BABERGH COUNCILBabergh councillor Margaret Maybury. Picture: BABERGH COUNCIL

Two Conservative members of Babergh District Council have quit in protest at the way they say the Tory group is being run.

Margaret Maybury and Sue Ayres announced today they would be resigning to sit as Independents.

Mrs Maybury, who represents Lavenham, and Mrs Ayres, who represents Sudbury South West, both said the final straw had been the controversial proposal to consider changing the name of the authority to South Suffolk because no-one knows where Babergh is and people even have trouble pronouncing it.

They said they were both tired of "being pushed around" under the leadership of group leader John Ward.

Sudbury councillor Sue Ayres Picture: ANDY HOWESSudbury councillor Sue Ayres Picture: ANDY HOWES

However Mr Ward said he was not surprised Mrs Maybury had stood down as she had never forgiven him for removing her from the council cabinet as portofolio holder for communities earlier this year.

But he admitted the resignation of Mrs Ayres had come as a surprise.

Mrs Maybury, who despite being dropped from the cabinet retained her seat at this year's May elections, said she did not approve of the way the group conducted itself.

"It's been very dictatorial and very concerned about its own image rather than what's good for the people, in my opinion," she said.

John Ward, leader of Babergh District Council Picture: PAUL NIXONJohn Ward, leader of Babergh District Council Picture: PAUL NIXON

"For some reason John Ward did not ask me to go back into the cabinet this time. He has never, ever, explained why.

"To my mind, and other people's mind, I did a really good job and I think he is just trying to placate challengers rather than hold the trust of his supporters, and I've had enough. I'm off."

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Mrs Ayres, a party member for 55 years and former mayor of Sudbury, said she felt members were too often kept in the dark.

"Half of the time you don't know what is going on," she said.

"I found out about the Babergh name change proposal from a post on Facebook.

"It's a very sad day for me as I have been a member of the party since I was 18 but I want to do what is best for the town and I now feel it must be as an Independent."

Mrs Ayres said the way the on-going controversy over proposals to build a hotel on part of Belle Vue Park in Sudbury had been handled had also influenced her decision.

Babergh is a Conservative-run coalition. Following the resignations the balance of power is 13 Conservatives, 10 Independents, four Green, three Liberal Democrats and two Labour.

Mr Ward said neither Mrs Maybury or Mrs Ayres had spoken to him about the proposed name change for Babergh, which will be discussed by the council next month.

But he disagreed that the Conservative group was being run in a dictatorial way.

"It's very much a collaborative group, we have meetings once a month where we discuss things before taking them forward," he said.

"We have to be even more collaborative now as whatever we talk about as a group we then have to make sure that our partners in the coalition are on board as well.

"I think you will find this is very much Councillor Maybury's sour grapes at not having a cabinet role.

"But I'd like to thank Councillor Ayres for her support in the past, I've always got on very well with her. There has been no indication that she has been feeling like this so that's very much a shock to me."

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