PRIME Minister David Cameron has rejected suggestions of a Conservative crisis in his Witney constituency after three resignations.
West Oxfordshire District Council members Steve Hayward and David Snow stepped down from the council’s Conservative group in May and now district councillor Annie Roy-Barker has followed them.
An opposition councillor claimed that the resignations were a reflection of the Conservative party not listening to voters, while there have also been suggestions that other councillors could resign from the group in the future.
Mr Cameron, MP for Witney, said: “The councillors left the Conservative group on the district council on individual personal issues and not all have left the party.
“There is no problem with the party locally and our stewardship of the district council continues successfully with the council being one of the top performing and lowest charging district councils in the country.”
Mrs Roy-Barker, district and town council representative for Chipping Norton, stepped down from the district council’s Conservative group in protest at the authority’s treatment of Chipping Norton Town Council during negotiations over planned recycling centre Greystones.
The district council wanted to use a strip of land, owned by the town council, to improve access to the site, but the authorities could not agree a price for it and negotiations broke down.
Mrs Roy-Barker, a district councillor for three years, claimed district council cabinet member for resources Simon Hoare, who was involved in the negotiations, had been abusive towards her and the town council.
She added: “I said in my resignation letter that I feel disheartened, disillusioned and devalued. I have felt that to a lesser degree for about 15 months, not enough to resign, but just a general feeling of ‘I do not like the way this is going’.
“Then at the group meeting and also at the cabinet I thought ‘I’m just not going to be able to work successfully with colleagues who are so discourteous’.
“It was not constructive criticism, it was extremely discourteous and totally unnecessary criticism, and then it got to be very personal criticism of me before cabinet when he more or less called me a liar.”
She added: “I think there is some dissatisfaction with the group and I think with a little bit more courage there might be one or two more (to resign).”
She said she plans to step down from the council next year, when she is due for re-election. She will serve as an independent councillor until then.
Mr Hoare said: “I do not, frankly, recognise the picture that she is painting.
“I think we approached the negotiations with the town council robustly, professionally, but in a spirit of discussion and engagement.”
On the claims against him specifically, he said: “I really have not got a clue what she is talking about.”
The district council scrapped the plan on Wednesday, saying a drop in the price of recycling material meant the project would run at a £43,000 annual loss and was not viable.
It was previously expected to turn a small profit.
Mr Snow, councillor for Witney North, resigned in protest of the party’s support for gay marriage and Mr Hayward, who was first elected in 1999 and represents Ducklington, resigned after being “sacked” from a committee position and growing unhappy with district council policies.
Labour district councillor Duncan Enright said: “There is clearly an issue with the Conservative group on the district council.
He added: “There are a number of issues on which they are not meeting local people’s needs and a number of councillors are now recognising that.”