Tories lose majority at Rugby Borough Council after councillor leaves group - but leader says he was ‘removed’

Cllr David Ellis has left the Conservatives and will sit as an independent councillor
Cllr David Ellis has left the Conservatives and will sit as an independent councillor

A councillor said he has fulfilled his threat to leave Rugby Borough Council’s Conservative group after members voted to continue talks to join the combined authority.

Members voted against joining the shadow board but did not rule out looking again at a combined authority once its structure had been finalised.

David Ellis, councillor for Wolston and the Lawfords ward, said he will now sit as an independent councillor meaning the Tory group no longer has a majority on the council. The Tories remain the largest group with 21 councillors but are now equalled in number by various opposition groups.

Last week, Cllr Ellis warned he would leave the Conservative group if it did not stop talks to join the proposed West Midlands Combined Authority.

However, Rugby Borough Council leader Michael Stokes claimed it was the Conservative group’s decision to remove Cllr Ellis from the party.

Cllr Ellis, said he feared that the structure of the combined authority will lead to tax rises and powers over Rugby being given to the Birmingham-centric cohort of councils.

Cllr Ellis added: “I warned the Conservative group that if they did not stop talks over joining the West Midlands Combined Authority then I would be forced to leave. I believe the plans for the town to join a combined authority would potentially lead to tax rises for the residents I represent. It also seems inevitable that decisions that affect Rugby would be made by distant Birmingham-centric bureaucrats. If I had remained a Conservative it would mean I was supporting a group that was undertaking a dangerous experiment with no tangible benefits.”  

In a statement Cllr Stokes said: “Unfortunately, due to a number of issues, the Conservative Group took the difficult decision to remove Cllr David Ellis from the group and he was notified at 9am on Friday October 9 of that decision.

“Cllr Ellis was suspended from his role as the Military Community Covenant representative on September 23 and since Cllr Ellis’s removal from the Conservative Group, this role has also been withdrawn from him and will be re-assigned to another member.”

Cllr Ellis added: “I do not have a bad word to say about the Conservative group as people. Many of them remain my firm friends. However, they know that I have come to believe that I cannot stand behind this decision – I hope that they realise there is nothing personal about my departure.” 

“I will continue my work as a councillor, but will work independent of any political party. In this role I will be able to vote to the benefit of my residents without the fear of a party whip.”