A long-serving Tory councillor and former Executive member has walked out of Bradford Council’s Conservative group.
Councillor Anne Hawkesworth, who has represented Ilkley for more than 20 years and was Conservative group leader in 2011, became the latest councillor from the Ilkley area to go independent yesterday. She cited “dismay” with the leadership style of Tory group leader Councillor Glen Miller (Con, Worth Valley) and concerns about the Govern-ment’s national planning policies – which she fears will lead to green areas being flooded with new houses.
Coun Hawkesworth pledged to remain a member of the Conservative Party nationally and said she would vote in support of “traditional Conservative values.”
In a statement yesterday, she said: “From now on I shall sit on the council as an independent where I shall be free from attempts to silence my protests over ministers’ proposals by use of the ‘whip’.
“I’m sure I can do better for my ward as an independent than as a member of the Conservative group under Councillor Miller’s leader-ship.” She has been accepted to join ex-Conservative councillors Adrian Naylor (Ind, Craven) and Chris Greaves (Ind, Wharfedale) on recently formed Bradford Council political group The Independents.
The move further fragments the political composition of Bradford Council, where the leading Labour group is three seats short of an overall majority. The Conservative group now holds 23 of the 90 seats, to Labour’s 43.
Coun Hawkesworth, of Ben Rhydding, was first elected to Bradford Council in 1990. She served as the Conservative group’s chief whip from 1992 to 2010 She became group leader in 2011, but was defeated by Coun Miller in May 2011. She was the Environment Portfolio holder on Bradford Council’s Executive for nine years.
She became Conservative member of the Council’s Regulatory and Appeals committee last May but was recently replaced by a newly elected Conservative councillor.
In response, Coun Miller told the Gazette Coun Hawkesworth had been “unsupportive” of the Conservative group in council meetings, publicly critical of national party policies without forewarning colleagues and that she may have been suspended from the group in due course.
He said: “In light of Councillor Hawkesworth’s actions since her loss of the Conservative group leadership and her refusal to meet up with the current leadership, it was possible that she may have been suspended from the group in due course.
“There was always the option for Anne to start work and vote with colleagues, rather than voting against the group and Conservative Party policy, in partnership with independent, former Conservative members of the council.”
Coun Miller added Coun Hawkesworth had not informed him or the chief whip of her decision before contacting the Press and said Ilkley voters should have been provided with the option of voting for someone who intended to serve as a Conservative councillor for the full four-year term.
Coun Hawkesworth said she had scheduled a meeting with Coun Miller next week, prior to her decision to leave the group.