Controversial plans to close four of Kent’s tips lie in tatters after county councillors voted to dump the proposals.
Conservative members rejected all closure options after months of public protest and fears of the political price they might pay at the next Kent County Council elections.
It will be seen as a significant victory for the scheme’s opponents who have vowed to remain “vigilant” against similar plans being reintroduced later.
The shutting of four household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) was on the table as cash-strapped KCC attempted to find £1.5m in savings.
Tory group members took the decision at a group meeting last week in a secret ballot in the council chamber at County Hall, Maidstone.
The cabinet member for the environment who was leading the closure plans, Cllr Susan Carey, resigned later that day. She has been unavailable for comment.
Plans to shut four of six Kent tips caused a furious backlash and prompted a planned consultation, due to start in the summer, to be put on hold.
The HWRCs at risk were Faversham, Tovil (Maidstone), Deal, Richborough, Dartford and Swanley.
One Tory member said: “The idea of closing the tips was always absolutely crackers – the public were never going to put up with that.
“Everyone knows that we are in dire financial straits as an authority but closing much appreciated amenities is not an option.
“Ahead of the 2025 election, it was politically suicidal. We know that we’re going to struggle at that election and shutting tips is not a way of shoring up the vote, is it?
“I don’t think Susan was very happy with the result and perhaps she thought she’s taken this as far as she could take it and that’s why she decided to go.”
The vote was 28-21 in favour of rejecting all the closure options formulated by Cllr Carey and her officers.
High profile opponent of the Faversham closure, the KCC Liberal Democrat group leader Antony Hook, said: “It’s great news but I’ll be advising our campaigners to stay vigilant. I’m not sure we can trust them [those in favour of the proposal].
“I can’t believe that they’ve had a sudden Road to Damascus conversion so they might try to get the closures back in some other form.”
Faversham protesters have collected 3,000 signatures of local people opposed to the loss of their tip.
After news emerged on Friday night of Cllr Carey’s decision to step down, Labour’s Barry Lewis said: “It puts into doubt whether these controversial plans to close the household tips will go ahead as there has been a major revolt by Tory backbenchers and opposition members against these ridiculous proposals.”
In an email to KCC members, and seen by Local Democracy Reporting Service, monitoring officer Ben Watts said leader Cllr Roger Gough would assume Cllr Carey’s responsibilities but supported by Cllr Tony Hills, Cllr Carey’s deputy.
It is not known at this stage if Cllr Gough will use her resignation to have another reshuffle of his top table.
A Tory member said: “At the group meeting, Roger looked crestfallen when the result was announced. He thought it would go through. It was close but really not that close, in the end.”
In early October, Cllr Gough survived a second leadership challenge this year when he defeated Cllr Sarah Hudson by a large margin (44-17).
The member added: “Clearly, if he thought the group was united around him, he clearly didn’t think it through. Tip closures don’t win elections.”