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Two Conservatives on Kent County Council suspended for defying party on housing policy

Two Conservative members at Kent County Council have been suspended for defying the party on housing policy.

Thanet councillors Linda Wright and Trevor Shonk were informed by email after last Thursday’s full council meeting.

Thanet councillor Trevor Shonk. Picture: Kent County Council
Thanet councillor Trevor Shonk. Picture: Kent County Council

But defiant Cllr Shonk said that he “won’t grovel” to be accepted back into the Tory fold.

Both members had sided with a Green Party motion on KCC's policy regarding developer money put towards community improvement, known as section 106 contributions, as part of planning permissions.

Conservative spokesman Dylan Jeffrey, who acts as the party whip at county hall, said the suspensions were “temporary”.

He added the Tory group had voted to oppose the motion in advance of full council but Cllrs Wright and Shonk had decided to go against the party line.

Cllr Jeffrey said: “The convention is that members who may have a reason for going against the group decision, on a matter of principle or for local reasons, should let us know first.

Birchington and Rural county councillor Linda Wright
Birchington and Rural county councillor Linda Wright

“That didn’t happen, so the two members were temporarily suspended.”

Both now appear on the KCC website's councillor list as independents.

An unrepentant Cllr Shonk said he was speaking up for the people of Thanet who are fed up with “housing, housing, housing” in the area.

The former Mayor of Ramsgate said: “They vote us in to do something and it’s my view that we shouldn’t turn perfectly good agricultural land into houses. Fields are for food.

“We are in a dire situation at KCC and we should be working with the other parties at this time.”

“Trevor is a serial rebel but that can’t be said for Linda...”

Asked if he expected to be readmitted to the Conservative group at County Hall, he said: “I am not going to grovel.”

Cllr Wright, member for Birchington and Rural, was unavailable for comment but a chamber in the colleague said her vote ”might have been a mistake”.

The councillor added: “It happens from time to time when people accidentally put their hand up at the wrong time but, for the official record, they both went down as rebels.

“Trevor is a serial rebel but that can’t be said for Linda.”

It is another embarrassment for the top table at KCC and the leader Cllr Roger Gough, who has survived two leadership bids against him in the past few months.

Cllr Roger Gough, leader of Kent County Council
Cllr Roger Gough, leader of Kent County Council

In the most recent, at the party’s annual meeting, he emerged victorious by 44 votes to 17. It was a much more emphatic win than many expected.

But there are still grumblings on the backbenches about the council’s leadership and direction.

Former leader Sir Paul Carter used a speech on KCC’s financial woes to appeal for greater transparency to members of all sides in the chamber.

One Tory backbencher said: “What Paul said resonated with a lot of us folk in the cheap seats - that we feel there is little connection between Roger and his cabinet and the rest of us.

“Decisions are just made and then foisted on us. There are a lot of Conservative members who won’t stand at the next election in 2025 and will feel emboldened to speak how they feel.”

The Green Party saw their motion defeated.

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