Letchworth Conservative councillor defects to Lib Dems
PUBLISHED: 10:37 17 August 2018 | UPDATED: 13:31 17 August 2018
A Letchworth Conservative councillor has joined the Liberal Democrats, citing concerns over Brexit and district issues like the North Herts Museum saga and bin collection situation.
Councillor Paul Marment, who was elected to represent Letchworth Grange for the Tories in 2015, announced his defection to North Herts District Council leader Lynda Needham yesterday afternoon.
Mr Marment will continue representing Grange ward as a Liberal Democrat. His switch cuts the majority for the Conservative group, which has controlled the district council since 1999, to only four.
Speaking exclusively to the Comet, Mr Marment said: “Since the end of the coalition, I have been struggling with the Conservative Party’s polices at local and national level.
“There has been an increasing move to the left and right of both main parties, and increasing levels of xenophobia – coupled with ongoing issues locally, like Hitchin Town Hall. Now the brown bin collections are becoming yet another fiasco.
“Therefore, I have decided to return to the Liberals, who I supported in my youth.
“This was not an easy decision to make, and I apologise to those on the Grange estate who voted for me because of my party allegiance – but I believe my reasons are justified, and I will still deal with their concerns and problems.
“I believe that the Liberal Democrats represent a modern view and offer the way forward for this country – especially for the young, who voted overwhelmingly against Brexit.”
Mr Marment also represented Letchworth Grange for the Conservatives from 2008 to 2012.
Mrs Needham told this paper she was extremely disappointed and personally saddened as she had got on extremely well with Mr Marment for years.
“The only that does concern me is the reasons he has given with regard to North Herts District Council,” she said.
“I’m puzzled because the reasons he has given – he has certainly not come to me and discussed those with me, or expressed his concerns with us.
“I’ve tried as quickly as possible to contact as many of my cabinet colleagues as I can, and I can’t find he has discussed his concerns with them either.
“I’m puzzled that he hasn’t raised those with me on a one-to-one basis.”
Hitchin Conservative branch chairman Dominic Griffiths responded with a tweet saying simply: “Well bugger.”
District council Lib Dem leader Councillor Paul Clark said: “This is great news not just for the Lib Dems but also for the people of Letchworth. As a party we expect our councillors to work extremely hard for the people they represent, and we are all looking forward to working with Paul.
“We would welcome conversations with other councillors from the Conservative or Labour groups who share our views, and like Paul want to work hard all year round for the people they represent.”
There are now 28 Conservatives on the 49-member district council, with 14 Labour councillors and seven Liberal Democrats.
Nineteen seats, including Mr Marment’s, are up for grabs in next May’s local elections. Sixteen are being defended by the Tories, who will lose overall control if they drop four or more seats.