Ashfield Lib Dems suffer defection blow

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A MEMBER of Ashfield District Council has left the Liberal Democrat party to become an Independent councillor - citing the party’s policy on university tuition fees as one of the reasons.

Coun Robert Sears-Piccavey, who represents Underwood, has made the decision to resign from the Liberal Democrat group and instead serve as a non-affiliated Independent member on the council.

“There is no big story and there is no falling out,” he said. “I sit in the council chamber with the Liberal Democrats but I am not aligned with them.

“I decided I no longer wanted to be a member of the Liberal Democrat party for reasons of my own.”

Coun Sears-Piccavey has been a district councillor for four years and a member of the Liberal Democrats for more than a decade.

But recently he questioned why he supported the party.

“I started thinking, why am I a Liberal Democrat?” he said. “The big issue was the student fees and when they reversed what they had said at the election.

“From that point, I started considering where I wanted to be. It was a painful decision to decide to become an Independent.”

He added that his priority is to serve the residents in his ward.

He said: “I intend to represent the people of Underwood for as long as I am doing a good job.”

The move now means that the Liberal Democrats hold five seats while the ruling Labour group hold 24 seats. There are also four Independent members, including Coun Sears-Piccavey.

Liberal Democrat leader Jason Zadrozny this week confirmed that there was ‘no animosity’ between them.

He said: “He’s going to be completely unaligned - there are no personal fall-outs.”

Coun Sears-Piccavey’s resignation has been effective since 21st July.

l Meetings at Ashfield District Council, which are all open to the public, will now start at 6.30pm instead of 6pm to allow people who work more time to get there.

The move was rubber-stamped at a full council meeting on Thursday, despite concerns that some committees meetings such as planning, might over-run.

Coun Chris Baron said: “This is long overdue not only for members but also for members of the public, should they want to see democracy in action.”

For details of meetings visit www.ashfield-dc.gov.uk.