A Long Preston councillor’s decision to swap political parties was described as “morally wrong” by a fellow Craven councillor.
Coun Chris Moorby, who was elected onto Craven District Council in 2012 as an Independent representing Long Preston and Hellifield, switched to the ruling Conservatives last year.
His change of allegiance has meant the council has had to alter the makeup of its committees – including putting the chairman of planning onto the decision making policy committee.
At last week’s policy meeting, Independent councillor Graham Beck asked if councillors who switched parties were obliged to inform their electorate. “I find the issue of councillors defecting to other parties morally wrong and in a way it is almost cheating the electorate. They’ve voted a candidate in and then he defects,” said Coun Beck.
Coun Beck also pressed council leader, Coun Chris Knowles-Fitton (Con) to say whether he thought it was morally wrong.
“Does the leader think it is the right thing to do to inform these people who have gone out on what was probably a rainy day and voted,” he asked.
Coun Knowles-Fitton responded that there was no way that Coun Moorby could know who voted for him.
And he added: “Churchill crossed the floor several times. I don’t think it beholds councillors to play holier than thou.”
Opposition members also raised concerns about the appointment of planning chairman Coun Richard Welch (Con) onto the policy committee because of a possible conflict of interest.
Coun Philip Barrett (Ind) said he understood that there was a rule preventing it happening, but was told it was not a hard and fast rule and that it was up to members.
Coun Welch assured councillors that, if he was in a policy meeting there was any potential conflict of issue because of his planning role, he would leave the room and not take part in the discussion. “It may not be a perfect situation, but if anything comes to policy about selling off council assets it will be simple, I will just leave the room,” he said.
Coun Robert Heseltine (Ind) asked that the rule on policy and planning be removed at the annual meeting in May since there appeared to be no further point to it.
After the meeting, Coun Moorby – who is up for re-election in May – defended his actions and said it was natural that Independent members felt strongly about his move. “My aim is to provide the best possible service to the residents of Hellifield and Long Preston,” he said.
“During the last 19 months as a district councillor, I have achieved and learned a great deal. I can achieve even more for my district as part of the administration.”