Tories say it’s business as usual despite UKIP defection on council

The leader of Lewes District Council said it would be ‘business as usual’ despite a councillor’s defection to UKIP leaving the Conservatives with no clear majority.

James Page, who planned to maintain his post, said his Conservative group had always worked with the Liberal Democrats on the council and this would continue.

Last week, long-standing Peacehaven councillor Phil Howson, who also sits on East Sussex County Council, had left the Tories and joined UKIP.

The council now has 20 Conservatives, 18 Liberal Democrats, two UKIP councillors and one independent.

Lewes Liberal Democrat chairman Ann De Vecchi said, “Even the Tories have lost faith in the Tories.

“They are in meltdown.”

But Cllr Page said Mr Howson had not been selected to represent the Conservatives and he felt he had not left the party for philosophical or political reasons.

“His letter of resignation to me merely states he was disappointed that he wasn’t selected and that he was going to stand for UKIP,” he said.

“There was no expression of disappointment with the party.”

Regarding the future of the council, he said, “I think despite the politicking we work reasonably well with the Liberal Democrats anyway.

“They have put forward some ideas we have run with.

“It’s business as usual and I hope to stay as leader.”

Independent councillor Ruth O’Keeffe said she too would continue to work with the two parties.

“Having a council with no overall control presents an opportunity for putting aside confrontational politics and working together co-operatively for the good of the district,” she said. Cllr Howson said, “There are a lot of people who will not vote Conservative in this election but I hope will vote for me. I have lost faith with a party that constantly reneges on promises made.”