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Chris Garland quits Conservative group

By Alan Smith

Chris Garland, the former leader of the Conservative group in Maidstone, has quit the party whip.

Cllr Garland will continue to represent Shepway North as an Independent.

He is next due for re-election in May of next year.

Cllr Chris Garland, former Tory Leader of Maidstone Borough Council quits the party
Cllr Chris Garland, former Tory Leader of Maidstone Borough Council quits the party

Cllr Garland has been a Conservative councillor since June of 2004 and was the leader of the council between May 2008 and May 2014 when the Tories held a majority.

Cllr John Perry, the current leader of the Conservative group, said: "I have tremendous respect for Chris. In fact it was he who persuaded me to stand as a councillor myself.

"I've been aware that he has differences on various issues with the agreed party policy and I'm not surprised at his decision.

"It was probably the right decision for him to take, though possibly a courageous one.

"He was a very good leader of our party and I wish him well for the future."

Cllr John Perry
Cllr John Perry

Cllr Garland explained his position.

He said: "I have quit the Conservative group, but I remain a Conservative at heart and will continue to be a member of the party as long as they will have me.

"Unfortunately I have some fundamental differences with the group's polices and it just wasn't right for me to go on defying the party whip."

He said he took a different approach to his fellow Conservatives over Maidstone council's judicial review of highways decisions taken by KCC.

He felt that seeking a judicial review was the right thing to do, saying "We need clarity on these issues."

He also said he took "a more pragmatic approach to the council's budget, rather than a philosophical one."

He said his group's idealogical commitment to the lowest possible taxes was sometimes "clouding the issue" - and he had found himself last year voting for the Lib Dem budget proposals rather than his own party's.

Cllr Garland said: "It's not fair to the current party leader for me to keep voting against him so I have done what I hope is the honourable thing."

Cllr Chris Garland will now sit with the Independents
Cllr Chris Garland will now sit with the Independents

The new political balance on the council is Conservative 24 seats, Lib Dems 21, Independent Group 5, Labour 3 and Independent Maidstone 2.

Although the Conservatives are the largest single party, the leader of the council is the Lib Dem Martin Cox, who was elected with support from Labour and the Independents.

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