Bullying claims and failure to treat non Tory councillors with respect cited as reasons why 'gang of four' will become Fenland independents

PUBLISHED: 11:37 14 March 2019

The Fenland ‘gang of four’; Councillors who have all quit the Conservative whip on Fenland Council today. Left to right: Cllr Fred Yeulett, Cllr Mike Cornwell, Cllr Michelle Tanfield and Cllr Will Sutton. Picture: HARRY RUTTER

The Fenland 'gang of four'; Councillors who have all quit the Conservative whip on Fenland Council today. Left to right: Cllr Fred Yeulett, Cllr Mike Cornwell, Cllr Michelle Tanfield and Cllr Will Sutton. Picture: HARRY RUTTER

Archant

Claims of bullying and failing to respect other councillors irrespective of party politics have been given as reasons by the 'gang of four' for quitting the Tory Party to stand as independents on Fenland District Council.

Four councillors announced this week they will fight the May local elections as independents – among them former cabinet members.

Three of the four were not selected by the North East Cambridgeshire Conservative Association (NECCA) to fight their current wards and a fourth, who planned to stand down in May anyway, has changed his mind to fight under the independent banner.

“Our prime reason for leaving the Conservative group and seeking election as independents in the forthcoming elections is the action taken by NECCA,” said Cllr Fred Yeulett.

“They deselected Will Sutton, Michelle Tanfield and Mike Cornwell – who do not deserve such treatment.”

Cllr Yeulett added: “We are concerned at the direction being followed by NECCA and its elected officers, particularly the organised voting practices, namely block voting by Wisbech branch members.

“The current NECCA is not the NECCA that we joined and supported.”

Cllr Michelle Tanfield claimed she had received “abuse and abusive messages” whilst cabinet member for young people and leisure.

“It made it difficult for me to feel part of the team; I don’t think anyone should have to go through the abuse bullying I got.

“There were times when I had to go to cabinet members in tears. I am a human being and all I was doing was best I could I don’t want anyone else to go through what I did.”

Cllr Jan French, chairman of NECCA, said she had since contacted the chief executive of Fenland Council Paul Medd about the allegations and as no official complaint had been made he had not been able to take action.

She categorically denied the claims by the independents and said NECCA had acted constitutionally throughout. On Monday she revealed all four had been suspended by the Tory Party.

Cllr Mike Cornwell said his reasons for standing as an independent came after he the association failed to select him and he felt the reason was because “I don’t give in to threats. I do not give into pressure from other people; I try to be as ethical as I can in everything I do.”

He said relationships within the group are still not happy “it is not a true Conservative group, I don’t give into things, have a mind of my mind. I am still a Conservative and I think I will always be I will not be a Conservative that falls under the Conservative banner of NECCA – that’s where it stems from.”

Cllr Will Sutton said he was standing as an independent “because I am not prepared to say yes or no” and there was massive support among the villages of Christchurch, Elm and Coldham which he represents with Cllr Tanfield for them to continue.

He said he was also angry at the way non Conservative councillors had been treated by his Tory colleagues.

“There are every good councillors who are not Tories who have been treated most disrespectfully,” he said. “I can’t condone it and I never will.”

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