THE CONSERVATIVES have lost their overall majority on Rugby Borough Council after one of their members exited the party under mysterious circumstances.
Coun David Ellis, who represents Wolston and the Lawfords, threatened to leave the party if the council voted to join the West Midlands Combined Authority.
And after the council voted last week to continue discussing all options on the so-called ‘super council’, he confirmed he would sit as an independent.
But his claim he left the party voluntarily was disputed by the council’s leader.
Coun Ellis said he feared the structure of the new authority would lead to tax rises, and decisions on Rugby’s services being made by Birmingham councillors.
He said: “I warned the Conservative group that if they did not stop talks over joining the West Midlands Combined Authority then I would be forced to leave.
“I believe the plans for the town to join a combined authority would potentially lead to tax rises for the residents I represent. It also seems inevitable that decisions that affect Rugby would be made by distant Birmingham-centric bureaucrats.
“If I had remained a Conservative it would mean I was supporting a group that was undertaking a dangerous experiment with no tangible benefits.
“I will continue my work as a councillor, but will work independent of any political party. In this role I will be able to vote to the benefit of my residents without the fear of a party whip.”
But yesterday (Wednesday), council leader Michael Stokes said Coun Ellis had been forced out of the party “due to a number of issues”.
He said: “The Conservative Group took the difficult decision to remove Coun David Ellis from the group and he was notified on Friday (October 9) of that decision, which was effective immediately.”
He revealed Coun Ellis had been suspended from his role as the Military Community Covenant representative in September – a role which will now be re-assigned to another councillor.
He declined to comment on why Coun Ellis had been suspended or dismissed.
The Conservatives now control a ‘hung’ council, with their 21 seats matched by the total number of non-Tory councillors.
In the event of a tied vote, a casting vote is given to the chair of each meeting – which, in the case of a full council meeting, would go to Lib Dem Mayor Richard Dodd.
At a special meeting on Thursday October 8, councillors voted not to join the West Midlands Combined Authority’s shadow board as a non-constituent member.
They agreed to explore other potential local authority partnerships and review their position once the proposed authority’s final structure and constitution had been confirmed.