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Tory resignations, suspension, mayhem, and madness at Peterborough

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A councillor has been suspended from the Conservative group at Peterborough City Council, just hours after it was revealed that four other Conservative councillors had quit the party.

A weekend of turmoil within the party leaves council leader Wayne Fitzgerald facing an uncertain outcome when the council holds its mayor making and annual meeting tonight.

Broadcaster Paul Stainton revealed the suspension of Cllr Mohammed Farooq earlier today.

“Farooq has confirmed to me that other members of the Tory group are unhappy with his suspension and that there will be ramifications for Wayne,” Stainton tweeted.

“It seems that a challenge to ‘Our Wayne’ has resulted in suspension from the Tory party for councillor Mohammed Farooq – Would a leadership challenge from any other Local Tory group councillor also result in suspension?

Cllr Farooq is president of the North West Cambridgeshire Conservative Association and city councillor for Hargate and Hempsted ward.

However in a further twist, the North West Cambridgeshire Conservative Association issued a statement confirming that Cllr Farooq remains as its president.

The association told the local democracy reporting service that it was “surprised and disappointed” by the news.

But the association said that Cllr Farooq “remains very much a committed member of the party” and that his role is unaffected.

The association says the suspension is a matter for the leadership of the Conservative group on Peterborough City Council.

‘Surprised and disappointed’ he was suspended

“We were surprised and disappointed that the group leader took this action against a colleague whom we consider to be one of the most principled and loyal of Party members,” the association told the local democracy reporting service.

Farooq was re-elected city councillor for Hargate and Hempsted ward in May 2022. Just a few weeks later he was elected honorary president of the association at the AGM.

Prior to the annual general meeting, he had held the position of Deputy Chairman (Political) since January 2021.

He has represented Hargate and Hempsted since 2018.

The Conservative association website describes him as a “former Cabinet Member for Digital Services and Transformation; under his leadership millions of pounds were saved through various efficiencies including improved supply chains and elimination of duplication across departments.

“Farooq has been recognised locally and nationally for his charitable work in the community and in 2017 was awarded the British Empire Medal.”

His son, Saqib, is also a city councillor, one of three Young Conservatives who won a seat in the city council election in May 2021 encompassing nine villages… Glinton, Castor, Ailsworth, Etton, Northborough, Maxey, Marholm, Deeping Gate and part of Peakirk.

Ironically the other ward councillor is Peter Hiller, one of the Tory councillors who quit in recent days.

By Saturday three Conservative councillors had left the party, leaving council leader Wayne Fitzgerald at the mercy of opposition councillors if he is to retain his position.

And then there were four

The fourth resignation has been confirmed as Cllr Gavin Elsey, leaving council leader Wayne Fitzgerald at the mercy of opposition councillors if he is to retain his position.

Cllr Hiller, Cllr Brian Rush (Stanground South) and Cllr Ray Bisby (Stanground South) were the first to quit to join the independent group Peterborough First.

And last night it was it was revealed that Cllr Gavin Elsey of Wittering has also moved to Peterborough First.

“You may have heard-seen on social media or the radio that yesterday I took the tough decision to resign from the Conservative group on Peterborough City Council and the Conservative Party,” Cllr Elsey said today.

“This isn’t something I did lightly, but the direction the group is being taken is not compatible with my integrity or ethics.

“I was elected by the good people of Wittering Ward to represent their views, something which is both an honour and something I take very seriously.

“Last year I did exactly that when the Peterborough MP and the central Conservative Party put forward a scheme to the boundaries commission which served them and him and had no regard for the wants of the villages I represent- all of whom said they didn’t want their proposal.

“The net result was that through me and fellow ward councillor Peter Hiller and others representing those views, the scheme was not passed.”

He added: “The Peterborough Conservative group, their MP and others campaigned for a year to have both Peter and I expelled from the party.

Direction of travel

“We continued with the group, but it became increasingly obvious that the direction of travel was to suit the group and a number of benefactors, rather than truly representing the views of the people who elected us.

“I wasn’t prepared to accept this or to be restricted in how I can best represent my residents.

“I therefore took the decision to leave the group and represent all my residents without restriction as an independent.”

Cllr Elsey said: “I have joined Peterborough First, a group of likeminded councillors who all have the best interests of both their wards and Peterborough as their only focus.

“I realise this decision won’t please everybody, but I have to stand by what I believe in.

“I guess I will be judged next May when you all either vote for the man or for a party badge.”

Gavin returned to the city council after winning the May 2021 election to represent Wittering ward which also covers the parishes of Wansford, Thornhaugh, Sutton and Upton.

First elected to Peterborough City Council in 2008, Gavin is a former Cabinet Member with extensive experience of local government.

He was elected unopposed to become chairman of the North West Cambridgeshire Conservative Association, a position he held for three years until 2022.

As reported earlier by CambsNews, central to the decision by the Conservative councillors to quit has been the challenge to a decision by the planning committee to refuse an application for a business park at Horsey Bridge, Stanground.

 

 

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