The only Labour representative on Rother District Council (RDC) and Bexhill mayor has defected to the ruling Conservative party.
Sidley’s Maurice Watson sat with the Tories for the first time at the annual meeting last night (Monday, May 16).
The outgoing mayor told the Observer he believed he could best serve his constituents as a member of the party in charge, instead of being ‘on the sidelines’.
“I cannot spend the next three years as a Labour person doing nothing,” he said.
“I want to be involved, I want to be able to take the rough and the smooth in what happens in their [the Conservative’s] deliberations, what they will actually give to the public of Rother.
“I think this is most important that a councillor does have to be able to stand up to what the council he’s on does. I can’t do that as a one party member.
“I fully support the principles of the people in Sidley, those of any political persuasion, both Cllr [Jimmy] Carroll and myself now will be able to really work together to improve Sidley and hopefully bring it on.”
The former Labour party deputy leader added that he ‘could not stand on the sidelines’ as that is ‘not what he was elected for’.
At 81, Cllr Watson said he would not be standing for re-election in 2019 after five years as the representative of Sidley.
Council leader Carl Maynard welcomed Cllr Watson to the political party saying he has been an ‘outstanding ambassador for Sidley’ and has done an ‘excellent’ job as mayor.
But Cllr Maynard also suggested Cllr Watson is unhappy with how other members of the Labour party wanted him to act.
“I know from the conversations that I’ve had with Maurice that he was distinctly uneasy with the political role that he was being asked to undertake by local Labour party members and he wanted to focus much more on the community role as he saw it as being a local councillor,” he said.
“I know in carrying out that community role, he can work far more effectively with Cllr Jimmy Carroll if he’s on the same side of the political fence as him and I wish him very well for the next three years.”
Bexhill and Battle Labour party chairman Tim Macpherson accused Cllr Watson of ‘letting down’ the residents of Sidley and criticised him for not standing up to the ‘vicious’ Tory cuts.
The addition of Cllr Watson makes little difference to the overall make-up of RDC as the Conservatives now hold 81 per cent of the seats, up from 78 per cent.
The mayor’s term comes to an end on Wednesday (May 18) at the annual mayor-making ceremony and Cllr Watson said it has been an honour.
“Bexhill itself is an extremely caring town and it’s been a great privilege to have been the mayor of Bexhill and I was very glad that I had the opportunity,” he said.
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