A Conservative councillor in Horsham has defected to the Liberal Democrats on the eve of May’s council elections.
Alan Britten, who is chairman of North Horsham Parish Council and was first elected to HDC in 2015 in Roffey North, described being impressed by the ‘cogent, sensible and well-thought out’ contributions from opposition members at meetings.
On a number of occasions he has found himself agreeing more with the Lib Dem approach and if he wanted to stand again felt he would have to ‘think seriously about changing parties’.
After being a ‘lifelong’ Tory he has joined the Lib Dems in the run-up to May’s elections and has explained his decision in an exclusive interview with the County Times.
He said: “I’m a principled person, but I do think it’s important that if you are not comfortable where you are you have got to do something about it and admit to it.”
Alan, 72, is retired after working for Sussex Police and has lived in the town since 1980.
He started and is still in charge of the town’s community car scheme, runs the charity Christmas card shop at the museum and is the welfare officer for retired police officers in the northern part of the county.
In the run up to May’s elections, he said it was ‘doubtful’ he would be required to represent the Tories again, adding: “I thought now is the moment, do I want to stand down or do I want to continue and try and make a difference?
“I decided I wanted to continue with the district council but I would take the opportunity to be honest with myself and decided I wanted to represent the Lib Dems.
“It gives me a greater freedom, not just of speech but thought.”
Since being elected he has most enjoyed dealing with issues in his ward and described how there was ‘nothing more satisfying than helping people’.
He said he would continue working with his former Conservative colleagues on the council and there were no hard feelings as he looks to stand for the Lib Dems in Roffey in May.
He said: “We are all doing the same job. It’s just we profess to be doing it for a different colour.”
Asked about what reaction he is expecting, Alan said: “I do not think anyone will be negative about what I’m doing. One way of looking at it is I have decided to step above the parapet. There may be other individuals who would like to do the same but would rather stay where they are.”
On the fact that HDC is dominated by Tory councillors, he described wanting to see more Lib Dems on the council.
He explained: “It’s inevitable you have an imbalance but I do not think it should be as obvious as it is.
“I hope I can add at least one in number.”
He described the situation at Westminster as a ‘fiasco’ and suggested the electorate was not properly informed before the referendum about exactly what Brexit entailed and meant for the country.
While he was in favour of joining the common market, he voted to leave in 2016 as he did not support the increase in political strength of the EU.
But now he said: “I always tend to lean towards safety and if we are giving up a safety net for the sake of politics then I can’t subscribe to that.”
He added: “It’s chaos and calamity at Westminster. It’s a battle between parties. It ought to be one collective mass saying this is what we are going to do.
“They [the Lib Dems] are offering a bit of an alternative and one of the reasons it strikes me is that the Lib Dems are more willing to step back and think of the consequences not just on the EU but other things going on in local government.”
David Skipp, leader of the Lib Dem group at HDC, said: “I think it has taken a lot of courage for Alan to say he’s going to leave one party and join another.
“You can’t really serve people if your conscience tells you what you are doing is not for the right reason or your conscience tells you that something is not right you have to stand by that.”
He added: “I think what’s encouraging is it’s not a political move in terms of ‘I do not like blue or yellow’ it’s a considered move for the best reasons to represent the residents of the ward.”
Alan concluded: “I will do my best for Roffey. In the past four years I have had no complaints from my ward, I have had no ill comments at all and hope that continues.”
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