Published: 10:59, 10 May 2022
| Updated: 11:01, 10 May 2022
In a surprise twist following last Thursday's election, the Conservative group has found a way to retain control of Maidstone Borough Council after all.
The Conservatives lost two seats in the polling last week, which left them one short of an overall majority on the council.
However since then, Cllr Nick de Wiggondene Sheppard has crossed over from the Independent bench to the Tories, giving them the vital one-seat majority they need to be sure of forming the next administration.
Cllr de Wiggondene-Sheppard had originally been elected as a Conservative for Detling and Thurnham Ward in 2019.
He initially left the party 18 months ago, because he said, some members within it were pressing for development within the AONB at Binbury Park, within his ward, which he disagreed with.
Since then, the Binbury Park proposal did not make it into the Local Plan Review.
He explained: "I've have always remained on friendly terms with my Conservative colleagues, and I decided it would be the right thing to do at this time to switch back so as to give the council some stability."
Cllr David Burton, the Conservative group leader, said: “This is fantastic news and it is great to have Nick back as part of the team.
"We shall now be in a strong position to pursue the policies set out in our manifesto, which include our commitment to secure an extra 1000 affordable homes for local people, ensuring that our climate change response sits at the heart of everything we do, setting a new ambitious strategy for the Town Centre and delivering on infrastructure.
"This is what matters to residents. Let’s get on with it.”
Cllr de Wiggondene's assistance may be only a temporary reprieve. He is due for re-election next year. Since becoming a councillor, he has taken up running a pub in Surrey, which is now taking much of his time and focus.
He said: "I will definitely not be seeking re-election next time."