The Leader of the opposition party on Horsham District Council has criticised the ruling Tories’ deputy leader Roger Arthur for defecting to UKIP and ‘walking away from his responsibilities.’
Last week, Mr Arthur who was both deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for finance, announced he was resigning from the Conservative Association and joining UKIP. He said he would be remaining as a councillor. He said the Conservative Party nationally had lost touch with its grass roots.
His own party’s leader is yet to issue any statement in response to the defection - although sources suggest cabinet colleague Helena Croft is being lined up to replace Mr Arthur as deputy leader as quickly as possible with Jim Rae tipped to take over the finance portfolio.
But on Easter Sunday, the leader of the Lib Dem opposition on the council Dr David Holmes said Mr Arthur should not be walking away from his responsibilities. “Roger is not a member of parliament and Horsham District Council is not about party politics but about serving the people of the district,” he said.
In a letter to the County Times, he went on to say: “As deputy leader, and the cabinet member responsible for the council’s budget and financial performance he was in a unique position to serve those who elected him.
“The council is in a very difficult financial situation at present. Income from investments and government is uncertain. Further, Roger Arthur has been a part of setting the council upon a course where it will be considering outsourcing much of what it does to private companies, and in addition has created further uncertainty by proposing significant changes to the staff’s terms and conditions.
“He should not be walking away from his responsibilities at this point because he disagrees with what his party is doing nationally. We all may have reservations about some aspects of government policy but our job as local district councillors is to ensure that the district council serves the people of the district well.
“He was elected as a Conservative to serve the district. If he is neither a Conservative nor willing to serve the district to the best of his ability he should step down as a councillor.
“The Conservative Party must ensure that the next person who holds this post takes the role seriously and has the knowledge required to make wise decisions,” Dr Holmes said.