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EXCLUSIVE: Deputy leader quits Conservatives to stand as independent

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Conservative deputy leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council Josh Schumann will fight for a seat in May elections as an independent.

The surprise news – which effectively means he has quit being the deputy to Tory leader Anna Bailey – only came to light at 4pm today when the names and affiliations of candidates was released.

Cllr Schumann, who is yet to switch his allegiance as a county councillor from Conservative to independent – but that is probably only a matter of time – means he will be up against two Conservative candidates for one of the Soham North seats on the district council.

His defection will be 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.

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Cllr Schumann told me tonight 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”

Cllr Schumann said: “I was at a point where I felt if I didn’t stand as an independent it would be hypocritical of me.”

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 is for others to decide.

“Quite clearly too there are group rules, and it will be down to them,” he said.

For the moment he remains a Conservative county councillor but that can be expected to change.

“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 allegiances.

“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.”

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”.

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

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

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”.

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