Tory councillor suspended over plan to stand as independent
- Credit: Norfolk Conservatives
A long-standing Conservative councillor has been suspended from the Tory group at Norfolk County Council, after he signalled his intention to run as an independent candidate in May's elections.
Bev Spratt has represented West Depwade since 2005, but was not successful in his effort to be picked to fight to retain his seat in the county council elections on May 6.
While still a member of the Conservative party, he has been suspended from the County Hall group while a decision is taken on whether he can continue in the group between now and the elections.
It means he is currently non-aligned.
Mr Spratt, who lives in Talconeston, said: "They decided to nominate a different candidate for my division.
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"I'm not that perturbed about that, because I've not been at all happy about the cabinet system at County Hall.
"They are not listening to the backbenchers at all. I've been opposed to the council tax increases in each of the past few years and when they agreed to put it up again, that was the final straw.
"We haven't been listened to for quite a while on various different issues. A lot of us feel we are no longer involved in policy or decision making. It isn't just me."
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Mr Spratt, who took just over 65pc of the vote in West Depwade in 2017, said: "I'm going to stand as an independent and I've been overwhelmed with support since word of that got out there.
"I'm still a paid up member of the Conservative party, but they decided not to pick me for the election."
Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council and of the Conservative group, said Mr Spratt had been suspended, pending a decision on whether or not he would be permitted to remain with the group prior to the election.
On Mr Spratt's comments about backbenchers feeling left out of decision-making, Mr Proctor said: "It is disappointing to hear that. We do have regular meetings and my door is always open.
"I have had regular conversations with Bev and I know that council tax was an issue he had, but I had explained the circumstances around why we felt we needed to increase it."
Norfolk County Council's political make-up is Conservatives 52, Labour 16, Liberal Democrats nine, Independent three, Independent (non-aligned) one, non-aligned one and two vacancies.