Council's Conservative Group expels District Councillor but she says 'I had already quit'

By Kevin Black in Politics

Lingfield’s Tandridge District Councillor Liz Lockwood has quit the Conservative group on the Council after she faced disciplinary proceedings.

Councillor Lockwood, who is due for re-election in 2019, is now an independent councillor and has joined forces on the Council with Oxted and Limpsfield Residents Group District Councillors Jackie Wren and Phil Davies and Caterham independent Clive Manley to form the Oxted & Limpsfield Residents Group with Caterham and Lingfield Independents.

Councillor Lockwood has been an outspoken critic of the Conservative run District Council’s Local Plan policies and was summoned to a disciplinary meeting of the Tory Group, chaired by Martin Fisher, Oxted Councillor and Leader of the Council.

He said in a statement that Councillor Lockwood had been expelled from the group- the Lingfield councillor countered that by saying she had already resigned BEFORE a vote to expel her was taken.

Councillor Fisher said: “I am disappointed we have had to take this action and have not been able to resolve the situation.

“While it is not appropriate to discuss details of someone’s misconduct in the press, this was the end of a long process in which Liz was given many opportunities to avoid this sad outcome, something she referred to herself on Facebook some months ago.

“She was first advised of possible misconduct proceedings in February, but was twice unable to attend the Group meetings at which her case would have been considered. I would like to make it clear the misconduct allegation has nothing to do with her disagreeing with some aspects of the Council’s strategy.

“In fact, as Leader, I wholeheartedly welcome debate and the furthering of contrary arguments: constructive debate often leads to better outcomes.”

However, Councillor Lockwood said:” A string of complaints was assembled for a disciplinary hearing but despite two requests, I wasn’t provided with any evidence beforehand. I even got my solicitor to ask again for the evidence up front; she told me it was very unusual for group rules not to allow for a fair hearing. At the meeting, every thing is unsubstantiated or put out of context, or is hearsay. It would not have withstood the scrutiny by my solicitor. These are the statements upon which the group are to cast their vote. I had had enough by then, and resigned before they could take a vote.”

Councillor Lockwood, who represents Lingfield and Crowhurst along with fellow Tory Brian Perkins, continued: “Being a good councillor involves, in my opinion, putting the needs and wishes of your residents as the highest priority when it comes to political decisions. I was always going to disagree with the ruling Conservative group at the District Council once I could see the emerging Local Plan was moving away from the core Conservative principles of protecting what is valuable to our society and supporting the ideals and aspirations of communities whilst ensuring everyone has access to what they need.

“I am not prepared to support a plan I know will fail at examination and proposes huge numbers of houses without any guarantee of the infrastructure that it will need. It has already cost a phenomenal amount of ratepayers’ money.

“The members of the Council’s Conservative Group are of course embarrassed that I will not follow the ‘party line’ and that I make no concessions when I challenge their inaccurate or misleading statements in public. I will not tolerate deception and the way this plan is being presented as “protecting the green belt from a death by a thousand cuts” is deliberately misleading. The upshot of it all is they don’t want me in their group, because I will not stop highlighting the flaws in their arguments.”

Councillor Lockwood, who claims that she was never provided with any evidence of complaints against her beforehand, added: “I will continue as an Independent Councillor and carry on working on the local issues as best I can and support the evolving neighbourhood plans in the area. My ambition is to see a sustainable Local Plan for the district.”

Caterham Harestone Tandridge District Councillor Beverley Connolly, who was at the Conservative group meeting and called the expulsion of Liz Lockwood ‘an ultimately quite destructive decision’ said: “I made it clear at the Conservative Group meeting that I wished to disassociate myself totally from the motion to expel or suspend Liz, a well-liked and hard working local councillor, from the Group. I would like to state this publicly as I do not want to be linked in any way to what I believe to be an ultimately quite destructive decision."

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