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Conservative at Cambridgeshire County Council leaves Conservative group

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Two years ago, he was “disappointed that the Conservatives don’t have an overall control” but all that has changed for a Conservative county councillor who has joined the ranks of the independents.

The political allegiance of Cllr Josh Schumann to the Conservative Party was amended on the county council website today to be replaced with the innocuous term ‘non-aligned’.

Cllr Josh Schumann has left the Tory group on Cambridgeshire County Council

Cllr Josh Schumann has left the Tory group on Cambridgeshire County Council

Not that it was unexpected for Cllr Schumann, a seasoned Conservative campaigner, dropped the bombshell three weeks ago that he was standing as an independent for East Cambridgeshire District Council where he has, until now, been deputy leader.

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He goes into next month’s local election proclaiming that “I was at a point where I felt if I didn’t stand as an independent it would be hypocritical of me”.

The surprise news – which effectively means he has quit being the deputy to Tory leader Anna Bailey – only came to light when the names and affiliations of candidates was released.

Cllr Schumann will be up against two Conservative candidates for one of the Soham North seats on the district council.

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His defection is a blow to the Conservative group both at East Cambridgeshire and at Cambridgeshire County Council where he served as a committee chair under the leadership of Cllr Steve Count prior to the 2021 county election.

Cllr Schumann told me three weeks ago he had resigned from the local Conservative group but not yet from the party.

He said the biggest reason for quitting the Conservative group was that “having been involved in local politics for 12 years I don’t think party politics best serve the community”.

He said it was not just a reflection of the Conservatives but that “politics is taking more of a role at local level than is right”

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It was important, he said, that decisions were made “on what a community wants and not what party whips want”

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He had told local Conservative officials of his decision some weeks ago and what happens now to his party membership was up in the air.

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“I feel incredibly happy to be standing as an independent – I don’t for one second think I will be elected since many have their party allegiance,” he said.

“Having stood many times, I know the hard work that goes into it.”

He said he decided to stand in Soham North which is his home, “where I grew up, where I know a lot of people. The nature of local government is you often stand in areas that are not your home.”

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If elected, he said, in “what may be my last term, and if it is going to be my last term, hopefully it will be for an area I know and love”.

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Cllr Schumann said his East Cambs colleagues had reacted to news of his leaving with many disappointed as “they obviously want people to remain with the party and return a majority, that’s the nature of how it is.

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“On the whole though there was a certain amount of acceptance – my rationale was accepted.”

Cllr Schumann is unlikely to team up with other independents at the county council.

He said his problem with the rainbow alliance at the county council is that many of the independents effectively decided to become a group which was “not healthy or right”.

After his 2021 election to the county council, he said: “On a personal level I’m delighted to be returned as the county councillor for Burwell for Cambridgeshire County Council, and I’m really pleased to be able to serve the community again because it means a lot to me to be able to support a place I love.

“But on a wider scale, obviously I’m disappointed that the Conservatives don’t have an overall control.

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“I think the Conservative administration has done a fantastic job over the last four years supporting communities during a really difficult and challenging time, driving through its green agenda, its mission to reduce carbon and improve the environment.”

Could it have been different had the Conservatives managed to create some form of coalition at the county council?

At the time had hoped so, mentioning to the Local Democracy reporter that “at the end of the day although we haven’t got an overall control, we are still the party with by far the most seats out of any other single party.

“I think the residents of Cambridgeshire have given a clear indication that they wish for us to try and run the council.

“We will obviously have to work in partnership with others, and we have done that before. I served under a no-overall-control council once before, and we managed to continue to run a good administration and to keep the council going in a really strong direction.

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“And I’m sure we will do it again.”

 

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His defection was reflected upon by Barry Lonsdale of Burwell, who is also chairman of Ely Traders Association.

His social media post suggested Cllr Schumann ought maybe to consider his position as a county councillor for Burwell.

“Perhaps then we may have a Cambridgeshire County Council councillor that will appear at Burwell parish council meetings,” he wrote.

 

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