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News


Tory Nick jumps to Lib Dem group


CONSIDERED one of the more ardent right-wingers in the local Conservative fraternity, Nick de Wiggondene has made a surpris- ing switch to the Liberal Democrats, the ruling party on Maidstone Borough Council. Cllr de Wiggondene, who rep- resents Detling and Thurnham, resigned the whip in August after it appeared the Conservatives might move towards supporting a large development scheme for 1,700 houses at Binbury Park, to which he is vehemently opposed . He argued that the land at Detling lies in an area of out- standing natural beauty and should be protected. There is little advantage long-


term to the Lib Dems, as Cllr de Wiggondene will move to Surrey to run The Bell pub in Outwood, near Redhill, with his partner Steve. Cllr de Wiggondene, pictured,


said: “On a local level, I’ve agreed with much of what the Lib Dems stand for. The way things are at the moment, we can’t have a by- election, but I’ll look after the ward until next year.” He warned the Binbury pro- posal could shape the election re- sult and “all bets might be off”. A Tory party source said: “He’s making a point on the way out.


The chances are we'll be able to win it back next May, all being well.” With the death of Wendy Hin- der and retirement of Steve McLoughlin, the numerically su- perior Conservatives are now vir- tually neck and neck with the Lib Dems, who clung to power in 2019 with the help of four inde- pendents and four Labour mem- bers.


The Lib Dems, however, may struggle to retain the support of two Lenham independents who are opposed to the Lib Dem-led authority’s role as self-styled “master developer of 4,000 houses on land there.


Voting letter under re


A COUNCILLOR has criticised the decision by the leader of Kent County Council (KCC) to encourage postal voting for next year’s local election. Conservative KCC leader Roger Gough sent a letter – paid for by the Tories at no ex- pense to taxpayers – to resi- dents last month encouraging them to apply for a postal vote due to the Coronavirus pan- demic and the risk it poses to the vulnerable. Cllr Gough’s letter states 20%


of people already choose to vote this way, due to “tens and thousands of people” unable to make the trip on polling day. Liberal Democrat Cllr Chit- tenden said: “The Conserva- tives can afford to send more


letters and leaflets out than any other party and it definitely gives them the upper hand.” Bridge ward borough coun- cillor Jonathan Purle says the Conservatives always favour the postal vote system because it is “convenient’” for older people, who may not want to leave their house on polling day.


Cllr Purle said: “Postal voting does favour us and serves us well. But your local councillor can act as a proxy vote or we can come and pick your vote up for you.” But there was disquiet that the KCC leader had omitted to mention the borough council elections in May next year in the letter.


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