A Sudbury councillor has quit his party’s local group to become an independent, amid claims that assurances over a cabinet role were broken by the new leader.
Alan Ferguson, who represents the South Cosford ward, said he agreed to stand down as a candidate for the Babergh District Council leadership, in return for a promotion to a cabinet position by John Ward, who was voted in last month.
Prior to the full council meeting to elect a new leader, Mr Ferguson said a discussion took place with Cllr Ward to agree the conditions.
However, since then, Mr Ferguson claims Mr Ward has failed to follow through on his promise.
Speaking to the Free Press, Mr Ferguson said: “He did not abide by that agreement.”
Mr Ferguson declined to elaborate on the conditions, but admitted that, if he had refused the offer, he was confident of being elected.
“On the basis of the agreement that I had with him [Mr Ward], I decided not to stand against him,” he said.
Mr Ferguson remains a member of the South Suffolk Conservative Association, and said he would continue to support the party’s principles.
“I’m still following a Conservative agenda, but I’m no longer governed by a party whip,” he said.
In response, Mr Ward said he continued to uphold his offer.
“There were several parts to the agreement that Cllr Ferguson and I made, all of which I was, and still am, willing to honour,” he said.
“The agreement included two cabinet positions, for him and another of his supporters. We couldn’t agree on which supporter should have the second position.
“This had to be someone acceptable to other cabinet members, myself and Cllr Ferguson, as my overriding concern was to form a stable administration.”
Mr Ferguson, who has been a staunch supporter of a second referendum over proposals to merge Mid Suffolk and Babergh District Council, voiced his criticism over the recent telephone poll, which has faced accusations of using leading questions.
“In crude terms, I don’t believe the questions on the telephone poll are objective,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sudbury South ward councillor Simon Barrett, who was handed a three-month suspension from Babergh’s Conservatives Group last year, has decided to remain as an independent.
He was accused of leaking confidential information, which he denies.
“I’m very much disillusioned – and I will be holding them to account,” said Mr Barrett, who echoed Mr Ferguson’s views on the council’s telephone poll.
“We were told by the ex-leader that we would see the questions before they went out to the public.
“What we ended up getting was a set of biased questions.”